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Let the Northern Lights Erase Your Name: A Novel (P.S.) Paperback – Illustrated, January 2, 2008
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Reading this book reminded me...how rarely a writer as precise, artful, and passionate as Vendela Vida comes along. (George Saunders, author of IN PERSUASION NATION)
Searing and beautiful...[Clarissa] is funny and fearless and absolutely unforgettable--just like this marvelous book. (Ann Packer, author of THE DIVE FROM CLAUSEN'S PIER)
“A taut, intricately layered page-turner that looks deeply and fearlessly into matters of profound human concern.” (Michael Cunningham, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of THE HOURS)
“A haunted, moving, gorgeous novel. It glows from within like a building made of snow.” (Andrew Sean Greer, author of THE CONFESSIONS OF MAX TIVOLI)
“A luminescent and evocative tale of grief, free of the standard clichés.” (Kirkus Reviews (starred review))
“Intimate and sweeping, LET THE NORTHERN LIGHTS ERASE YOUR NAME dazzles like sun on snow.” (Sean Wilsey, author of OH THE GLORY OF IT ALL)
“Taut, understated, and compelling” (Seattle Post-Intelligencer)
“[A] stirring novel…as alive and fascinating as the brilliant atmospheric phenomenon of its title.” (Chicago Tribune )
“[Vida’s] stripped-down, modern approach at its best applies a wash of freshness, even innocence to age-old questions.” (San Francisco Chronicle Book Review)
About the Author
Vendela Vida is the award-winning author of six books, including Let the Northern Lights Erase Your Name and The Diver’s Clothes Lie Empty. She is a founding editor of The Believer magazine, and co-editor of The Believer Book of Writers Talking to Writers and Confidence, or the Appearance of Confidence, a collection of interviews with musicians. She was a founding board member of 826 Valencia, the San Francisco writing center for youth, and lives in the Bay Area with her family.
- Item Weight : 7 ounces
- Paperback : 256 pages
- ISBN-10 : 0060828382
- Product Dimensions : 5.31 x 0.58 x 8 inches
- ISBN-13 : 978-0060828387
- Publisher : Harper Perennial; Illustrated Edition (January 2, 2008)
- Language: : English
- Best Sellers Rank: #1,378,382 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
Top reviews from the United States
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The author is skilled at portraying men as uncaring, socially awkward or dangerous. The author also seems to be of view that certain behavior that I think is immoral is fine as the protagonist (Clarissa) portrays, though I would have to give too much away about the story to explain my position. In short, in someways, Clarissa in the story is entitled to lead a life on her own (unfair) terms especially at the end (see review by Jean A Rogers, one star, "skip the last 2 pages--you'll be happy you did." The ending is odd, unrealistic, contemptible, and ridiculous.
One not saving grace about the book, is that the reader can surmise a totally different point of view than the author seems to be espousing, one in which your biologic parents are not important and the parents (adopted) who raise you and love are what is paramount. And that a person who tries to refute that position, ends up being an immoral person herself (though less than her mother as the author points out). This Orwellian theme has merit, though regrettably is not the author's intention.
This books is so well written, and was so well researched from a Lapland standpoint, that I give the book five stars, even though I find the storyline to be distasteful. Perhaps a longer section on "A Conversation with Vendela Vida" which is at the end of the book might improve my opinion of the author's intentions.
Even if the author's viewpoint is as noisome as it seems, I would still recommend this book to inform the reader of how some people view men, the world, and what some people think is morally acceptable or even laudable. I wonder how many men besides me and the author's husband, have read this book. What gives away the author's point of view is the interview in the afterward in which the author states the main character 'follows in her mother's footsteps though she is less ruthless' and that the main character Clarissa is "likeable." Oh really? To explain a more realistic and opposite viewpoint, I would have to give too much away of the story, and I look forward to reading other reviews.
The books is very well written and I had to force myself to put it down rather than reading it all at once. I would suggest not to read it all at once, take time, digest the characters, story line, and places. Look up on line and research some of the places in Lapland. The author also discusses Lapland culture, e.g. Aurora Borealis is one's ancestors communicating with the living. What a nice thought. I hope the book will inspire you to visit Finland, as I have been there five times which is what made me curious about the book to read it. I have also sent copies to two Finnish friends.
A major theme that the author wishes to express, is that no matter what your background, it is possible to start over, re-invent yourself, remold or even un-mold your past. You can do more than start over, you can erase parts of your past. This idea is worthwhile, though I believe this character and this novel is not a good way of making that point.
If I were grading it based on values and morality, I would give the book one star; however, the author is entitled to her view of the world, her view of men, her view of adoption, her view of pregnancy, her view of relationships. I am judging the book on how well written and researched it is, and therefore it receives five stars from me; another reviewer, who seems to share at least some of my criticism of the book chose to give the book one star, "Skip the last 2 pages--you'll be happy you did," by Jean A Rogers "Cam Jam"
Top reviews from other countries
As other reviewers have said, the prose is sparse but astonishly beautiful in its simplicity and justness. This is the story of a young woman's 'journey', physical and emotional, in search of her true identity. Discovering at 28 years old, that her recently dead father was not her real father, leaving behind a desolate fiance, she impulsively embarks on a journey to Lapland to meet her real Sami father. Or so she thinks...Her mother also walked out on her family when she was fourteen, so there is quite a bit of 'baggage' for Clarissa to carry along...
Her literal progressive ascension, always more and more north and her progressive discoveries about her past until the ultimate revelation practically at the Arctic is, I think, a beautiful metaphorical parallel and I found the ending fascinating and extraordinarily liberating. Instead of all this anger, bitterness and excruciating sadness that could have engulfed her so easily, this survival instinct to flee and start all over again is brilliant, hopeful and true. I totally understand the heroine.
I was very impressed by how the author conveys so much emotionally yet with such a restrained style, something to be greatly admired writingwise.
I simply could not recommend this book enough, because not only it is a pleasure to read but the content is so rich and beautiful and always surprising...And not forgetting to mention the unique setting up north, among a most stunning landscape, so bare and so pure that only truth can stand in it !
I had never heard of Vendela Vida before, now learned that she is also David Eggers' wife and has written two other books, next on my list ! There is also talks of 'Let the northern lights...' to become a film so I would say make sure you read it before it is spoiled by a director....( Hopefully not !)
It is a brave book. As with 'Emma' the heroine is eminently dislikeable, which for this reader proved problematic. The use of the second person throughout, although intentional, makes it a disconcerting read.
Her straightforward and sometimes beautiful prose I did appreciate. I even tried understanding why Clarissa did some of the things she did. And at the end I more or less also understood Clarissa's form of resolution.
It was all a bit odd.
Some quite interesting things learned about the culture and Lapland itself, however.
One of my favourite quotes from the novel, "..and on some nights in bed, in that moment before sleep erased the day, I would picture the way the sky in Lapland looked the morning I left, how the train had sped south beneath a sky that was brighter than it had been in weeks. It had pulsed with reds and oranges, as though hiding a beating heart.”
I would recommend this book to anyone, particularly one who likes a little mystery / suspense.