Thursday, 10 March 2011
A Year in Books 2011 - Let the Right One In
Let the Right One is probably better known for the author John Ajvide Lindqvist's film adaptation and the recent American remake than for the original source novel. The film helped by two outstanding child performances was about as close to an art house vampire movie as you could get. I had heard in reviews that there were various threads in the novel that the film didn't cover and so was intrigued enough to give it a go.
For those of you that don't know the plot, the story focuses on Oscar who lives in block of flats in Sweden with his mother. Oscar is bullied at school and has fantasies about taking violent revenge on those that torment him. He makes friends with a new girl, Eli, who has just moved into the block and who is amazingly agile , doesn't feel the cold and whose flat has all the windows blocked out. The community is gripped not only by winter but by a series of "ritual " murders that are happening in the local area, carried out by an old man Hakan who is "looking after" and providing food for Eli.
I guess the big question is if you have seen the film , does the book offer anything more? The story is broadened out , we learn a bit of Eli's back ground and how she became infected. Hakan is given a back story so we get to see what his motives are which always seemed a bit odd in the film, as he wasn't a vampire himself. The events of the film are pretty much confined to the first half and very end of he book. There are a couple of major changes , the first probably removed from the film due to timing (it takes up a big chunk of the second half book and the other, specifically involving Eli, because in a 90 min film without the benefit of hearing the character's thoughts, it would have complicated the relationship between Oscar and Eli too much.
However as a result of the first omission it does mean that the book offers a number of story strands and characters that were dropped from the film. These only go to heighten the theme of loneliness and isolation whether it is Oscar for his lack of friends , the local drunks for the death of their dreams , Tommy for the death of his father, Hakan for a physical desire he can never satisfy, Oscar's parents for the death of their marriage and Eli the ultimate isolation of living forever. All heightened by the sense of being trapped by the winter, poverty and the country (the only clunky bit has a soviet submarine run aground in Swedish waters)
It can alos be seen as a horror version of Larkin's view of parents, none of who come out of it well.
Can there be such a thing as a social commentary vampire story? ..well this is as close to one as it gets
You can buy Let The Right One In here