Thursday, 7 July 2011

A Year in Books 2011 - Beatles

Last year I read a great book called the Half Brother written by  Lars Saabye Christensen who writes a bit like a Norwegian John Irving..... or so I thought. I've just finished reading another book by the author written 17 years before the Half Brother. the book is called Beatles and although in it is a coming of age novel the style and structure are completely different to the Half brother and the John Irving comparisons don't stand up. Not that this is a bad thing because the Beatles is a great read.

The book starts in 1962 with 4 Beatles obsessed school friends. Over the next 10 years we follow the 4 friends and their lives and friendships evolve. What remains constant is their love of the Beatles , to the extent that their nick names for each other are John Paul George and Ringo. Each chapter takes its title from a Beatles song and the themes of that chapter tenuously reflect those of the song. Also the 10 year journey has echoes of the changing relationships within the fab 4, they start as an inseparable before drug use , politics , religion and women pull them apart.

There is no big over riding theme just a heady mix of all the uncertainties, excitement and discovery of growing up. What is great about the book is the way Christensen covers familiar feelings of growing up but with a different time culture and country which means everything is recognisable but different enough to no feel like a 100 other coming of age novels. ( for example political rebellion is played out against the prospect of joining the EEC!) The core voice of the novel is Kim, the Paul character, and through him we experience the thrill of music (eg the ritual of getting friends together to listen to the first time to a new release on a battered record player which I remember doing this for each New Order 12") the awkwardness of new love, the politics of youth football and that weird period when you drift away from your parents whilst still living under the same roof.

Although not as quirky or as epic as the Half Brother, themes of friendship and the fading of childhood is one that everyone experiences which in itself makes it a great read. It also makes me think that with the 2 books 17 years apart what other great novels has he written and are sitting there waiting to be translated
You can buy Beatles here

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