Friday, May 14, 2010

SOFT MEN AND NAPPIES*


When Dorte of DJS Krimiblog reviewed The German Brat by Camilla Lackberg [not yet translated into English] she warned:

"If you are allergic to soft men, nappies, and parental leave, stay clear of this novel!"

At present I am reading an earlier Camilla Lackberg, The Stone Cutter, translated by Steven Murray [and very kindly sent to me by Maxine of Petrona Towers] and am finding it slightly heavy going. As I am only about a third of the way through I am going to reserve my judgement until I have finished, but after reading The Snowman by Jo Nesbo, and The Man from Beijing by Henning Mankell in quick succession the readjustment to more mundane domestic issues is proving difficult.
Perhaps my problem is that all the female characters have been given very good reasons for being utterly miserable, and with most of the male characters being "soft", the book wallows in depression and melancholia.

I am sure that as soon as I become used to the massive style differential between Henning Mankell's global economic strategic studies, and Camilla Lackberg's breast feeding schedules I will begin to enjoy The Stone Cutter much more.

Does Camilla Lackberg deliberately try to increase her female readership by giving so many varied domestic problems to her female characters?

Do her books appear at times to be more soap operas than crime fiction?

11 Comments:

Blogger Dorte H said...

LOL

You know you are famous when someone plagiarizes you (as a Danish politician said).

Can you see what I meant last year when I wrote articles about Scandinavian femikrimi, Norman?

I have always suspected that Läckberg could do better, but she achieved fame after her debut and has been called Scandinavia´s queen of crime after her second so why should she try to change anything?

On the other hand, if I could sell as many crime novels as Läckberg, I am not sure I would stay clear of nappies either. But I would NOT expect male readers to take me very seriously.

5:32 AM  
Blogger Uriah Robinson said...

Thanks Dorte.
I thought I saw one blurb that referred to Camilla as Sweden's Agatha Christie.
I think she has done careful marketing and worked out that 80% of crime fiction readers are women many of whom have careers as well as families and so will identify with the "nappy" problems.
At one stage we had a baby with Down's syndrome, plus a rumbustious 20 month old, a six year old, and a difficult 17 year old teenager all at home so my wife didn't have any time for post natal depression, or luxuries like thinking.
Dorte, I think male readers would always take you very seriously. ;o)

9:10 AM  
Blogger Lauren said...

Treading slightly carefully here, but out of respect for a family member's experiences I would like to say that not having time for depression etc is really not enough to avoid having it.

Anyway, I'm probably squarely in Lackberg's demographic anyway, but based on my daily life, I'd say there's a lot more conversations going on about nappies (those of us without children tend to get dragged into them anyway!) and domestic issues - among people of both sexes - than there are Mankell/Nesbo-esque discussions. Even among those of us with grim experiences/serious desire to solve the world's problems.

While Lackberg's characters do appear to have every domestic disaster known to humanity, I still think that's a lot closer to the average than some of the more masculine characters/stories/authors etc.

And at the risk of being called shrill and humourless etc, I rather resent the sense that female domestic problems are soap-opera-ish and therefore don't belong in criem fiction while alcoholic men are A-OK. (And why is femikrimi a term of derision when the hyper-masculine techno hero or Scandinavian mid-fifties grump isn't? I don't always like the fluffy stuff, but I don't think the bad press is necessarily fair. If men are allowed to get tired of 'soap', then women should be allowed to be fed up with endless mid-life pessimism.)

OK, stepping off soapbox.

10:52 AM  
Blogger Dorte H said...

Lauren, you are right that depressions should be taken seriously, but quite a lot of Läckberg´s ´domestic problems´ sound like chapters of ´Bridget Jones´ Diary´, and in "The Stone Cutter" Annika´s sister seems to suffer from a depression - but the ´cure´ is outright ridiculous.

My next review is Åke Edwardson (male Swedish writer),and one could very well accuse him of writing male femikrimi (two hundred superfluous pages about all the private problems of the detectives).

No more tonight, I am having a very domestic cold & a headache :D

1:06 PM  
Blogger Maxine said...

I have a different take from Norman and Dorte also. I think the post-natal depression, problems of isolation with young baby, etc, described in the stonecutter is very well done, and I liked those aspects a lot.
What I did not like so much was the back-story of the Stonecutter, which was (to me) "shawls and clogs saga" level. The melodrama seemed comic book. I also thought Patrick and co did not take some elementary steps in the investigation (eg questioning some people, searching some places) and it took them ages to work out what seemed fairly obvious aspects of the drama. (Even then, he had a hint because he "happened" to be watching TV one night....)

So for me, it was the crime/detection aspects of the book that were less successful, and the style of the historical back-story. I thought the sections about Erica and her friend (whose name I have forgotten, but the one whose child is missing at the start) were the best parts, and realistic.

6:36 AM  
Blogger Dorte H said...

Maxine: the story about Erica and her friend Charlotte is good and realistic, yes, but in the fourth (which I have not reviewed), there is another depression, and none of the Danish reviews I have read have accepted the so-called cure of that one. So it is not The Stone Cutter I was after in particular, but the fourth which has not been translated yet.

10:19 AM  
Blogger Uriah Robinson said...

Lauren and Maxine, my apologies I wasn't in any way minimizing the problems of depression it was just that I wanted to know what other people thought about the situations in Camilla Lackberg's books.
I agree these problems are very common [especially male violence towards women] it is just that so many occurred among such a small group of people that it just had me wondering what others thought about the books.
I did not use the term femikrimi [Lackberg's books are very different from other female writers such as Asa Larsson and Liza Marklund] because I still don't fully understand it. I agree constant Morse, and Wallander type grumpy detectives do become boring after a while, although the Harry Hole books keeps reader's interest with the plot twists.
The more I get into the book the more I can recognise situations in real life especially Charlotte's husband the doctor Nicas.

11:09 AM  
Blogger Uriah Robinson said...

I have noted Maxine's comments about Patrick and his investigations here and in her review. Would police officers, even those in a rural backwater, really not have heard of Asperger's syndrome?
I should finish this book before I say anymore, but thanks Dorte, Lauren and Maxine for your input.

11:27 AM  
Blogger Reg said...

Hi all, I finished the translation of Camilla's 4th early this year, and I must say I liked the 3rd one best so far. I thought the ending was particularly good and even said "Wow" when I got to it. (I don't read crime fiction in advance, just dive in and go. I like to experience it as the reader will, although at a much slower pace, over months instead of days or hours.)

As for the baby stuff, that's the hardest for me to get through, since I'm child-free except for a brief period with a rent-a-teenager in the 80s.

Dorte, I like your translation of "Tyskungen" -- it's same one I proposed to HarperCollins. Hope they buy more of the books. They're going to do a big push for Camilla this year now that there are 3 out and it's obvious it's a series.

I got to meet Camilla last fall at the Copenhagen book fair. She was extremely gracious and told me some great stories about Fjällbacka. Can't wait to see the photo of Ingrid Bergman holding her as a babe in arms...

12:57 AM  
Blogger Maxine said...

Well, obviously, being an ignorant Brit, I have not read the fourth yet;-), but so far, my favourite is the third.
I do like these books, but for The Stonecutter, the detectives just seemed a bit thick. For me to enjoy a crime novel, I like at least one of the detectives to be cleverer than me ;-)

Norman - I did not think for a second you were minimising those problems.

12:29 PM  
Blogger Uriah Robinson said...

Thanks Maxine, and I agree the detectives do seem a bit dull. I like to identify with the protagonists and I have to face the fact that getting older I am more Erlendur than Patrik.

1:16 PM  

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