LITTLE STAR - John Ajvide Lindqvist
The problem, if there is one, with the receipt of a new book by John Ajvide Lindqvist is the vague worry that one day there just could be a book by this author that doesn't quite work for me. If there is such a book in Lindqvist's imagination, LITTLE STAR isn't it.
I don't quite know what it is about Lindqvist's writing but he consistently takes this reader into territory that I'd normally run a mile from - be it vampires in LET THE RIGHT ONE IN, zombies in HANDLING THE UNDEAD or mysticism and profound parental attachment in HARBOUR, so nothing much has changed as I found myself deeply involved in a plot that culminates with an "Swedish Idol" styled TV program.... Without giving too much away, let's say that LITTLE STAR is about a family's musical stardom, an abandoned baby, ambition and the perversity of fame. LITTLE STAR is another clever morality play from this author, weaving a tale of manipulation, selfishness, and selective blindness in the face of raw ambition, into a narrative that's extremely readable, hypnotic and frequently very moving.
I'm not sure if it's a feature of the original language, but somehow there's a tone and a cadence to the prose in all of Lindqvist's books, that gives them a lyrical, beautiful and extremely readable style - it must, at the very least, be quite a feat of translation. However it's done, that style, cadence and tone were a part of the great appeal of the first book, and it's definitely continuing in LITTLE STAR. Which makes many of the less palatable elements of some of the characters, their actions, and their behaviour stand out even more starkly, and, in particular, make the mystical, the "other" (for want of a better description) just work. They become not just believable, but somehow expected, required if you like.
So yet again, I'm confounded by the use of another "other worldly" scenario in LITTLE STAR that was so simply and beautifully built into the narrative that I didn't bat an eyelid. I was amazed at the way that the narrative ebbed and flowed, the way that a story built and rolled out and around and into some of the dark places of the worst of behaviour. I was strangely relieved at the metering out of justice, albeit somewhat startled at the method... but mostly, I was extremely pleased to spend time with yet another superb book from a master storyteller like John Ajvide Lindqvist.
Lennart Cederström, embittered ex-pop singer, is foraging for mushrooms when he finds a baby left for dead in a plastic bag. He revives her and is utterly astonished by the sound of her crying: the child’s voice is a clear, haunting, perfectly pitched note.
Lennart decides the girl will be his project. Raised in isolation, untainted by the dross and banality of the everyday, she will become the vehicle for a pure, exquisite music. He installs the baby in the basement and threatens to kill his downtrodden wife if she breathes a word. But their delinquent son Jerry is a harder case and his ideas for the infant prodigy, whom he names Theres, involve talent shows, celebrity and enormous success.
Meanwhile the child is growing up and developing a few ideas of her own. Only hers involve a hammer. A hammer, and a very strong taste for violence and a strange ambition to appear on Swedish Idol.
Imagine what will happen when she finds a friend who shares her interests.