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Låt den rätte komma in (Let The Right One In)

January 25, 2011

Arts & Literature, Reviews

Written by D:

There’s been a Swedish film and the inevitable American remake, but once upon a time when people were so poor they couldn’t afford a bajillion dollars on whizz bang special effects and five quid on popcorn, this was a real live book. I’ll let the publisher’s tea boy give you the jist (i.e. here is the blurb from the English translation).

Oskar and Eli. In very different ways, they were both victims. Which is why, against the odds, they became friends. And how they came to depend on one another, for life itself.

Oskar is a 12 year old boy living with his mother on a dreary housing estate at the city’s edge. He dreams about his absentee father, gets bullied at school, and wets himself when he’s frightened.

Eli is the young girl who moves in next door. She doesn’t go to school and never leaves the flat by day. She is a 200 year old vampire, forever frozen in childhood, and condemned to live on a diet of fresh blood.

What I think this novel really succeeds at is presenting the mundane realism of the quotidian. Yes, there’s a lot of gruesome down to earth killing, often involving rubber piping and plastic tubs, but mainly it’s the grey misery of snow covered Sweden that not even Ikea furniture can brighten. It’s something that the films only half capture, presenting Oskar as something of a beautiful and unique snowflake rather than an out and out loser. That being or helping the undead might be boring, tiring and hard work is made unflinchingly clear. Difficult themes abound; broken families, alcoholism, paedophilia, though the style is prosaic and the plot linear.
The historical flashback is, in my opinion, ill advised, as it breaks the tension created by the monotonous, claustrophobic setting. Aside from that, it’s a skilled piece of writing, and a welcome change from run of the mill vampire romance.

If you’ve read it, tell me what you think.

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