These stories’ engaging blend of reality and fantasy moves the action along while giving young readers a taste of Swedish...




Adventures with a goblin teach a young Swedish boy about Christmas magic, loyalty and family in this collection of connected stories.

After penning six fictional works and one biography, Caulfield (World War II Army Nurse, 2013, etc.) is at her storytelling best in these six Christmas tales set in her native Sweden. Their hero, a young boy named Björn, lives with his family on a farm in Dalecarlia. Part of the stories’ charm comes from the author’s evocation of life on the farm—an area lovely in summer, with “warm, sunny days and cool evenings,” but snowy, icy and dangerous after midwinter solstice. Björn’s Christmas experiences become more challenging in each story as he moves from age 6 to 12. Caulfield’s gradual approach enables young readers to share Björn’s insights and see where the sometimes rash and selfish boy might need to improve his behavior. Each year, Björn gains a new understanding of forgiveness, love, family and community, thanks in part to his visits with Nisse, a short, stocking-capped, mysterious and powerful tomte, goblin, who hides in the barn. The boy comes to realize why legend has taught farmers to honor these centuries-old creatures; Nisse demands respect in the form of porridge after Christmas Eve dinner, but he also needs more than a hollow ritual. Only Björn seems to be able to chat with Nisse, and with him, the boy visits various tunnels and secret rooms. The lad’s hardworking parents, occupied with responsibilities and chores, often seem oblivious to his opinions, but grandmother Farmor and grandfather Farfar remember Nisse’s magic and assist Björn in his adventures. Modern life intrudes in the longest story, “The Unwelcome Stranger,” when the boy’s parents bring home Ibrahim, a strange child who speaks no Swedish, to become his new brother. Björn comes to love him, however, and Nisse’s magic cap helps save the day when immigration officials arrive to take Ibrahim away.

These stories’ engaging blend of reality and fantasy moves the action along while giving young readers a taste of Swedish folklore.

Pub Date: June 30, 2014

ISBN: 978-1499544497

Page Count: 146

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Sept. 9, 2014

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It's being called a novel, but it is more a hybrid: short-stories/essays/confessions about the Vietnam War—the subject that O'Brien reasonably comes back to with every book. Some of these stories/memoirs are very good in their starkness and factualness: the title piece, about what a foot soldier actually has on him (weights included) at any given time, lends a palpability that makes the emotional freight (fear, horror, guilt) correspond superbly. Maybe the most moving piece here is "On The Rainy River," about a draftee's ambivalence about going, and how he decided to go: "I would go to war—I would kill and maybe die—because I was embarrassed not to." But so much else is so structurally coy that real effects are muted and disadvantaged: O'Brien is writing a book more about earnestness than about war, and the peekaboos of this isn't really me but of course it truly is serve no true purpose. They make this an annoyingly arty book, hiding more than not behind Hemingwayesque time-signatures and puerile repetitions about war (and memory and everything else, for that matter) being hell and heaven both. A disappointment.

Pub Date: March 28, 1990

ISBN: 0618706410

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin

Review Posted Online: Oct. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 1990

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A welcome introduction to a major author and a pleasure for fans of contemporary European literature.


Thoughts on travel as an existential adventure from one of Poland’s most lauded and popular authors.

Already a huge commercial and critical success in her native country, Tokarczuk (House of Day, House of Night, 2003) captured the attention of Anglophone readers when this book was shortlisted for the Man Booker International Prize in 2018. In addition to being a fiction writer, Tokarczuk is also an essayist and a psychologist and an activist known—and sometimes reviled—for her cosmopolitan, anti-nationalist views. Her wide-ranging interests are evident in this volume. It’s not a novel exactly. It’s not even a collection of intertwined short stories, although there are longer sections featuring recurring characters and well-developed narratives. Overall, though, this is a series of fragments tenuously linked by the idea of travel—through space and also through time—and a thoughtful, ironic voice. Movement from one place to another, from one thought to another, defines both the preoccupations of this discursive text and its style. One of the extended stories follows a man named Kunicki whose wife and child disappear on vacation—and suddenly reappear. A first-person narrator offers a sort of memoir through movement, recalling her own peregrinations bit by bit. There are pilgrims and holidaymakers. Tokarczuk also explores the connection between travel and colonialism with side trips into “exotic” practices and cabinets of curiosity. There are philosophical digressions, like a meditation on the flight from Irkutsk to Moscow that lands at the same time it takes off. None of this is to say that this book is dry or didactic. Tokarczuk has a sly sense of humor. It’s impossible not to laugh at the opening line, “I’m reminded of something that Borges was once reminded of….” Of course someone interested in maps and territories, of the emotional landscape of travel and the difference between memory and reality would feel an affinity for the Argentine fabulist.

A welcome introduction to a major author and a pleasure for fans of contemporary European literature.

Pub Date: Aug. 14, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-525-53419-8

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Riverhead

Review Posted Online: May 15, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2018

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