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The American Girl Paperback – February 16, 2010
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From Publishers Weekly
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Top Customer Reviews
Although the true gift of this book is the author's inventive use of language, I must agree with a number of reviews here that this American translation is flawed. In particular, the lyrics to popular American songs from the 60s and 70s play an important role in the book, but the translator translated the Swedish lyrics into English rather than doing the research necessary to discover the original English versions. As a result, much of the musical magic of those lyrics used within the contex of the story is abrasively lost on the American ear. If I were Monika Fagerholm, I'd sue the translator over these significant errors! But despite this specific type of error, the originality of Monika Fagerholm's prose style does shine through in this translation -- one might only guess if this work would have been even better with another translator.
So what is this book about? Actually, it is best if you know very little about the plot. It might be easy to spoil the story with too much information...so beware of reviews that reveal too much about the storyline. All that I will say is that this is a dark, moody, twisted tale with potent mythical overtones.Read more ›
This is a difficult book to summarize, and in many ways an even harder one to read. Monika Fagerholm is a Finnish author writing in Swedish, and the book definitely had the disorienting feel of a translation. This was not a smooth, consistent reading experience for me.
The book starts out in 1969 in Coney Island where we are introduced to a young girl named Eddie de Wire. She goes to visit some relative somewhere on the coast near Helsinki. We know that Eddie has disappeared from there, and presumed drowned. Her death has become a mystery and almost mythologized by those who live nearby.
Other key characters are a young abused child named Doris, who commits suicide at age 16. (We know this almost from the outset, so no spoiler.) We also meet a young, lonely girl named Sandra, who's been primarily raised by her father, after her mother goes missing. Sandra and Doris become best friends and soul mates, and their relationship was one of the high points of the book for me.
There are plenty of other characters, including a young man named Bjorn who may have been involved with Eddie, who we also know very early on has killed himself after finding out Eddie died. His body is discovered by his troubled younger brother Bencku, who has made maps of the region's houses and yards. (Again, no spoiler, we are told this at the start.)
This is a long book - over 500 pages. It starts out by telling us about all these teenage deaths and by going back and forth through time. It's a bit confusing and have to say that there were times when I was a bit discombobulated and when I felt like I wanted to throw in the towel and stop reading.Read more ›
I'm not a reader who requires closure, or an ending all tied up with a pretty bow. Give me an unreliable narrator and I'm good. Most of the time. I love guessing, and not knowing EXACTLY what happened. But I have to have some idea that SOMETHING happened.
The other reviews that I read didn't give me any big clues, but they did confirm something I suspected...that something was lost in the translation. Some of the confusion in the narrative and certainly some of the repetitive phrases ("so to speak") must come from the translation that was done.
That said, "The American Girl" is not for the faint of heart. The character names, actions, realities are more than a bit ambiguous. Much of the work is left for the reader to do as s/he experiences life in "The District". The author has a neat trick of turning the lens as well as turning the hands of the clock either backwards or forwards so that without breaking stride, the reader learns what another character felt or did in conjunction with an event. Which can be illuminating...or confusing.
I think this is a story about human emotion, at its core. There is a mystery surrounding the American girl that came to The District years ago...but that may be just the center point around which all the other characters lives pivot. It's about the feelings involved in trying to find one's way in the world, especially when one is emotionally damaged.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
This book is very difficult to get "into"...I am halfway through it and find it to be quite boring. I read a lot of books and this is the worst one in a very long time.Published on March 18, 2014 by ChillySD
The American Girl is an ambitious novel that does not quite execute what it set out to accomplish. This is a gothic novel with an eerie setting--a young woman, the titular... Read morePublished on April 23, 2013 by Elizabeth Hendry
"The American Girl" was translated from Swedish, which I knew from the beginning (after all, "Lolita" was translated from Russian)and didn't deter me. Read morePublished on April 22, 2013 by A. Carter
This book is a mess. One reviewer wrote that "it's not for everyone." My take: this book is not for anyone. Ms. Fagerholm, I'll assume (or is it the translator's fault? Read morePublished on February 16, 2013 by Dennis W. Gill
normally a short story writer, Monica has distilled the essence of her skill into a longer work which is so pleasing to read I have difficulty putting it down. Read morePublished on December 27, 2012 by Michael Burke
The premise of The American Girl sounded incredibly interesting to me - the murder of an American girl that may or may not have occurred, and the two Finnish teenagers who are... Read morePublished on September 13, 2012 by skrishna
I really wanted to enjoy this book. The premise, the way the book was 'sold' to me, was excellent. And the promise of brilliantly used language drew me to it. Read morePublished on August 15, 2012 by Auliya
One has to admire the author for telling the reader exactly what is going to happen in the first 20 pages and then spending the rest of the book concentrating on two characters who... Read morePublished on August 17, 2011 by Tim Lieder
This was my book club's most recent pick and I looked forward to reading it as the storyline sounded interesting. Unfortunately, I couldn't even finish it for lack of interest. Read morePublished on October 15, 2010 by trish5674