The Linnea trilogy

December 21, 2014 Leave a comment Go to comments

The Linnea trilogy (my term) is composed of the following books by Katarina Mazetti:

  • Det är slut mellan Gud och mej (God and I broke up, available in English) 1995
  • Det är slut mellan Rödluvan och vargen (The Red Riding Hood and the Wolf Broke Up. Not translated into English) 1998
  • Slutet är bara början (The End Is Only the Beginning. Not translated into English) 2002

mazetti_trilogy

I’ve already read two books by Katarina Mazetti (Benny and Shrimp, the English title is silly because the original means The Guy Next Grave) and Family Grave) and I thought they were good light books. You know, the kind of books that aren’t too difficult to read but are still well written? The ones I put in the Beach and Public Transport category? They’re relaxing. When I was struggling with Berlin Alexanderplatz, I read God and I Broke Up. When I was drowning in Flan O’Brien’s prose, I read The Red Riding Hood and the Wolf Broke Up. And I closed the trilogy with The End Is Only the Beginning. I’m a bit in a rush to finish writing about the 2014 books I’ve read before the year ends, so I’m writing one billet about the three novellas.

In the first volume, we meet with Linnea. She’s sixteen and her best friend Pia has just died. She’s grieving while trying to live her adolescence.

On n’a pas de statut quand on a perdu un ami! Si ton mari meurt, tu deviens veuve, une veuve vêtue de noir et les gens baissent la voix en ta présence pendant des années.Si c’est ton meilleur ami qui meurt, les gens te demandent après quelque temps pourquoi tu broies encore du noir. You have no status when you lose a friend! If your husband dies, you become a widow dressed in black and people talk to you in a low voice for years. If your best friend dies, after a while, people ask you why you’re still feeling down.

The novella is a first person narrative; we’re in Linnea’s head and the style reflects perfectly the mix of cockiness and insecurity of adolescence. Losing Pia makes Linnea feel isolated even if in appearances, she’s well adjusted. She has rather good grades, socialises with her classmates and takes part in family life. God and I Broke Up is not the portrait of a depressed teenager. It’s the portrait of an adolescent who lost her confident, the person she could loosen up with. Linnea used Pia as a sounding board for her ideas and vice versa. She’s grieving this precious intimacy. God and I Broke Up is the story of a banal adolescent. She lives in a small Swedish town where there’s not much to do, she goes to school and has the usual crushes, stories about classes and lunch breaks. Her mother is divorced and remarried with Ingo, an inspiring artist. He builds artwork with wood and lets his wife be the bread winner. They have a son together, Knotte who’s very close to Linnea. She’s a middle-class Swedish girl.

The salt of the novella is in the characters, their quirky ways and Linnea’s voice. It addresses the typical questions of adolescence: what about God?, what about love?, what about my future? and who am I? And Linnea tells you…

Il ne faut pas gaspiller sa vie en courant entre les manèges et les stands comme à une fête foraine. Restez là où vous vous sentez vraiment bien. Il vaut mieux se décider en conscience que de laisser tout au hasard. Car il faut se décider. On ne peut pas conduire une moto et écouter le chant des oiseaux en même temps. On ne peut pas être à la fois cascadeuse et heureuse mère de sept enfants. You shoudn’t waste your life running from one attraction to the other like you would in a funfair. Stay where you feel very good. It’s better to make the decision than let chance decided. Because you have to make a decision. You can’t ride a motorbike and at the same time listen to the birds singing. You cannot be a stuntman and the happy mother of seven children.

I liked the second volume, The Red Riding Hood and the Wolf Broke Up, less than the first one. I don’t know if it’s the same in English or in Swedish –the French title is the exact translation of the original Swedish title, I checked— but in French, Elle a vu le loup (literally, She saw the wolf) means She lost her virginity. So in this second opus of the series, Linnea runs away to Los Angeles and loses her virginity on the way there. I was less keen on this one because I found it a bit unrealistic. What is interesting though is the depiction of Los Angeles. It demystifies the American dream that most European adolescents have. Linnea doesn’t end up in shiny Rodeo Drive. She ends up in the side of Malibu where people speak Spanish better than English and have two or three crappy jobs to survive. That’s a good wake-up call for us who see from the US mostly what the sunny TV series show us.

The last volume relates Linnea’s last year of high school…

Nous voilà au début du premier trimestre de terminale, les professeurs se promènent en levant l’index d’un geste menaçant qui a l’art de plomber l’ambiance : « Ce sera peut-être l’année la plus importante de votre vie, vous comprenez, c’est maintenant que vous décidez de votre avenir !!! » Here we are at the beginning of the first period of senior year. The teachers walk around with their index finger raised in a threatening manner and are masters at spoiling the fun: “This may be the most important year of your life, you understand. This is when you decide on your future!!!”

…—it does ring a bell, doesn’t it? — and it’s about Linnea’s first love relationship with Per, Pia’s older brother. I thought this volume was as good as the first one. It doesn’t go for corny but for funny and real, like here when Linnea describes her attraction to Per:

La pilosité dans le visage des garçons a quelque chose d’attirant, j’avais l’impression que ses sourcils lançaient des décharges de phéromones, et, pour être franche, je ne peux pas y résister. Une tablette de chocolat sur le ventre ne me fait aucun effet—mais donnez-moi un visage poilu et je craque sur le champ. Parfois je me dis que c’est parce que je n’ai jamais eu de chien quand j’étais petite… Hair on a boy’s face is attracting. It was as if his eyebrows were shooting pheromones discharges and to be honest, I can’t resist it. Six-pack abs do nothing to me but give me a hairy face and I melt on the spot. Sometimes I think it’s because I never had a dog as a child.

Er, I suppose the first part of this quote is rather comforting for hairy boys. Please note that in French a six-pack is tablette de chocolat (bars of chocolate). Back to the book. While Linnea contemplates and comments the effects of love on her mind and body, life goes on around her. Her friend Malin is in a tough spot, her grand-mother has a stroke and questions about university linger. Her relationship with Per stems from their connection to Pia and not from common interests so it fizzles over different visions of life. Per is in the military and Linnea’s background is rather alternative. Katarina Mazetti is a feminist and Linnea is a quiet feminist as well. She holds her ground and won’t let Per control her and that’s a valuable message to adolescent girls.

The Linnea trilogy is a light, fun and spot-on read. If you have teenagers around you, I recommend it because it’s the kind of book that leaves you relieved as in “Good, I’m not the only one who feels that way”. And I think it’s a very comforting thought. Plus, it’s easy to read and it may be a way to lure some into reading books!

 

  1. December 21, 2014 at 9:17 pm

    Sometimes it’s all about a change of tone, and it’s good to balance the heavy with the light but thought-provoking, too. I’m always on the lookout for interesting books for my goddaughters. The youngest is nearly fourteen, and I think she might like these books. The other one’s a schoolteacher so I can see her being interested in the series for a different reason.

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    • December 21, 2014 at 10:23 pm

      I gave the trilogy to my daughter who’s 13. I try to pass on my love for books but I’m not really successful.
      Unfortunately for your goddaughters, only the first volume is available in English. The other ones have not been translated.

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      • December 22, 2014 at 11:13 am

        Ah, of course. The eldest one is pretty fluent in French, though!

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        • December 22, 2014 at 1:10 pm

          Well, then I hope she’ll have fun. The language is not complicated (no long sentences) but there’s slang.

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  2. December 22, 2014 at 12:07 am

    I’m not that keen on books about teens to be honest, Apart from that these look like books with covers from Europa books.

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    • December 22, 2014 at 1:12 pm

      The publisher is Actes Sud and they quite good books. They’re one of my favourite publishers.

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  3. December 22, 2014 at 4:42 pm

    I still haven’t read “Le mec de la tombe . . .”, so I’ll pass. Although I do read books for YA I prefer when they are dystopian/fantasy . . . I think it’s great though that some teenagers might get introduced to books from other countries.

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    • December 22, 2014 at 6:50 pm

      Le mec de la tombe d’à côté is better for adults.

      I didn’t think of that aspect because it’s so natural to me to read in translation but you’re right, it’s great to be able to read about another country and see that adolescent life there is not very different. (of course, it’s another European country so there are lots of things in common)

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  4. December 23, 2014 at 3:47 pm

    Actes Sud? I do recall them being among your favourites. Shame the middle one’s weaker, but at least it picks up again.

    Given the focus on adolescence and more importantly the fact it’s not all in English I’ll probably pass, but interesting billet.

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    • December 23, 2014 at 7:05 pm

      They are among my favourites. It’s a good sign when they pick a book. When I look for a French edition of a book the bloggers I follow have liked, I often find it in Actes Sud, Rivages or Folio.

      I don’t think you should rush to this one, especially considering your limited reading time. I’m always on the look for good books for Marion but they don’t compete well with computers, ipods and other electronic devices. *sigh*

      Like

  1. December 30, 2014 at 10:35 pm
  2. October 11, 2016 at 9:44 pm
  3. March 18, 2017 at 6:43 pm

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