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The Solitaire Mystery: a novel about family and destiny Paperback – November 1, 1997

136 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews Review

Jostein Gaarder had an unlikely international success with Sophie's World, a novelized exploration of western philosophy through the eyes of a young girl. This is an earlier work, translated from the Norwegian by Sarah Jane Hails. This fable-like story dabbles in philosophy too, though more lightly. It tells of a Norwegian boy traveling across Europe with his calm and reflective father in search of his long lost mother. The boy finds a tiny manuscript that reveals the secret of a magic deck of cards that can tell the future. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

Admirers of Gaarder's first translated work, the bestselling Sophie's World, will be familiar with this Norwegian ex-philosophy teacher's talent for transforming what is essentially a vigorous round of mental aerobics into unpredictable, absorbing fun. This novel, which was published in Norway before Sophie's World, is another offbeat delight, ontology masquerading as an ingeniously constructed fairy tale. It tells the story of the 12-year-old Hans Thomas, who is driving with his father from Norway to Greece in a quest to retrieve his errant mother. The plot thickens when a midget at a gas station on the Swiss border slips Hans Thomas a miniature magnifying glass, and then the next evening, on a stop in Dorf, a kindly old baker presents him with a correspondingly tiny book and swears him to secrecy. As Hans Thomas sneaks looks at the book, between sightseeing and philosophizing with his father on their trip south, it gradually unfurls a strange story of a shipwrecked sailor and his rather unusual game of solitaire?a story that has puzzling links with Hans Thomas's own life. By the time the mystery is resolved, Hans Thomas and his family learn important lessons about themselves and their past, as Gaarder walks the reader through a complex inquiry into the nature of being and destiny. Less light-footed than Sophie's World, this work relies on fantastical symbolism for its central allegory; some readers will find a plot that hinges on such elements as a magic vanishing island and sparkling Rainbow Soda too corny for their tastes. Others, however, will deem it enchanting, especially since all the whimsy is balanced by deft portraits of Hans Thomas and his gruff, good-hearted father.
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Berkley Trade (November 1, 1997)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 042515999X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0425159996
  • Product Dimensions: 5.1 x 0.8 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.4 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (136 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #693,623 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

51 of 54 people found the following review helpful By Daniel on January 27, 2000
Format: Paperback
The Solitaire Mystery is Jostein Gaarder's best book. (though arguably not his greatest, which is probably Sophie's World). Very few books make one want to sit down and re-read them all through again after the first reading, but this is one of them. It is deceptively simple, yet the ideas are so striking that you can't work out why nobody ever pointed them out before. Jostein Gaarder took the theme of Alice in Wonderland to create an entirely new and modern story based around the cards - you'll never look at a playing-card in the same way again. Buy this for your entire family, even for your children or grandchildren. Once you've read it you'll wonder why you never read it before. A classic plot, yet such a very new one. Simple yet incredibly complex, yet an intelligent child could understand it. A novel of ideas that is coherent and striking and memorable. I tried very hard to think of anything I didn't like or found substandard in this book, and... I just couldn't. It is perfection itself. Even rereadings are highly recommended. You discover the smallest details and nuances that passed unremarked the first time around, which link back and forward to past or future events, and only build up an even more coherent picture.
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18 of 19 people found the following review helpful By Stacey M Jones on May 27, 2003
Format: Paperback
In a story within a story, "The Solitaire Mystery" by Jostein Gaarder follows a sailor who gets shipwrecked on an island and finds another man there, also a cast away, who had been lost there 52 years before. The older man lives on the island with 53 strange little people, who on a certain celebratory day, prepare a sentence for a grand story. No one knows the sentences of the others (they can barely remember their own), and the "court jester" among them arranges them so the story is coherent, representative of the past and present and also so it prophesizes the future.
All this is read by a 12-year-old boy, Hans Thomas, who is traveling from Norway with his father by car to Greece, where Hans Thomas's mother is living. She had left the family eight years before to become a model and neither Hans Thomas nor his father, an arm-chair philosopher, has heard from her since. Hans has a problem with his remaining parent, too. He drinks too much, and gets drunk regularly on the journey south.
But when a funny little man gives Hans Thomas a strange magnifying glass, and a baker in Dorf gives him a correspondingly tiny book baked into a sticky bun, Hans is the connection between the two stories, living out his quest to go get his "Mommy" in Greece, and spending time reading the story of the mysterious island and the strange people who inhabit it. There are obvious connections between Hans Thomas's journey, his problems in life and who he is with the sticky-bun book's plot, which is very complex, with many seemingly disparate aspects and facets.
As the story progresses, the themes of the essence of being, of God's role in the world, destiny and the joy of being alive/the beauty of the world resonate in both stories.
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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful By "dieunendlichegeschichte" on January 22, 2003
Format: Paperback
The Solitaire Mystery is more than a book. In the words of Mr. Coreander, a character in The Neverending Story by Michael Ende, "There are many doors to Fantastica, my boy. There are other such magic books. A lot of people read them without noticing. It all depends who gets his hands on such books."
I believe that Gaarder truly gives readers a new doorway into `Fantastica', by analogy. He demonstrates how literature can be an art only the imagination can truly understand. After the first time I read this book I had become so immersed into the story, I picked it up again and began reading it again. This is definitely a book to get your hands on. If you desire to read a book that shows the wonders of life, the mystery of adventures, a window into your innermost being, this is the book. I have read Gaarder's Sophie's World and loved it as well. These two books are significantly different and both contain a genuine `must read' story. Gaarder's style of writing is not confusing or hard to follow. But the nature of the story is one that makes the reader think, look inside themselves for understanding, and encourages them to re-evaluate how they see life and all its wonders.
The imagination, spirit, soul, and what can be called the `innermost being' takes on many forms, and they all gather strength to take flight from different books in a variety of ways. Read The Solitaire Mystery and see where it takes you.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful By CDS on April 23, 2005
Format: Paperback
There are very few books which can compel me to suspend my planned daily activities, in order to sit down and read without interruption. This was one of them. Jostein Gaarder is a fantastic author, and I hope that he continues to write. I was introduced to him by my eleventh grade English teacher, who suggested I read Sophie's World written by Gaarder.

The Solitaire Mystey like it's predecessor (Sophie's World) is a superbly written work of fiction, with philosophical undertones. It follows the fantastic journey of a boy and his father, searching for the boy's mother. Along the way there are many adventures, and much self discovery. As with many good books, not only does it tell a story, but it also leaves the reader with much to think about. I highly recommend it.
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