19 February 2009

The Ringmaster's Daughter (Jostein Gaarder)

Am going through a bit of a re-reading old favourites phase at the moment, am about 2/3 through Atlas Shrugged (which is pretty much consuming my life so apologies for the lack of reviews lately....) and just before that I read The Ringmaster's Daughter by Jostein Gaarder. I love this book. I have read it maybe 10 times, and each time I love it more. It doesn't have the meaning of life hidden in clever metaphors, or explain the mysteries of philosophy (and lets be honest...inserting 10 page long information dumps about various philosophical movements does not make for a page turning read..)

What this book does have is a fantastic plot. Well, a number of fantastic plots, since the protagonist, Petter, makes a living out of being a storyteller. Ever since he was a child, Petter has lived partly in a fantasy world, not always able to distinguish between his real life and his imagined life. Looking back over his childhood, Petter is unable to tell which memories are real and which are imagined (but he is pretty sure the time he was able to fly didn't actually happen). One of the main characters, the Metre Man (because he is exactly one metre high) only exists in Petter's mind (although he makes the mistake of occasionally pointing him out to his friends). So all in all, Petter seems, well, kind of crazy. But really likable at the same time.

When he grows up, instead of becoming an author himself, Petter sells story outlines to writers suffering from a creative block. Happy to reside in obscurity, Petter becomes very rich by selling ideas. In reading Petter's life story, we are lucky to also read many of his imagined stories which he passes on to others. The way the various stories are woven together make this book truly amazing, and really enjoyable to read.

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