Wednesday, May 04, 2005
Review: The Orange Girl
Image provided by Powell's Bookstore
I have a long-standing history with Jostein Gaarder. Ever since I read Sophie's World almost ten years ago, I've been compulsively buying his novels. While I obviously have some favorites in his lineup, I haven't really been disappointed overall.
Gaarder's latest outing, The Orange Girl utilizes his familiar device of a story-within-a-story. The main story is that of Georg, a 15 year-old boy who receives a letter from his father who died 11 years ago. The story-within-a-story is the letter itself. Skillful craftsman that he is, Gaarder peels away the layers of the mystery while gradually building up the suspense.
The letter is a heartfelt confession of a father to the grown-up son he knows he will not live to see. The main thread follows his father's obsession with the titular Orange Girl whom he bumps into one day on the train. Badly smitten, he begins an extensive search for the Orange Girl, painting various fantastic scenarios in his mind all the while.
Yes, it's a textbook case of obsessive stalker behavior, but it's charming and not sinister. Gaarder perfectly captures what it is to be in love. A common refrain in the book is: "...in life we must all learn to yearn a little."
Along the way, Gaarder touches on several familiar topics that old readers will instantly recognize: the universe as a lottery and man as the pinnacle and purpose of creation. Fortunately, he doesn't drive those points overmuch and chooses instead to focus on the blooming love story.
There's a final question that pops up near the end of the book, one that I won't spoil in this review. It's a simple question that's worth well asking yourself.
But you'll have to read the book to find out what it is.