Monday, October 31, 2011

Harbor by John Ajvide Lindqvist

Title: Harbor
Author: John Ajvide Lindqvist
Pages: 512
Publication Date: October 11, 2011
“John Ajvide Lindqvist is rightly seen as one of the most exciting writers working in the horror genre at the moment – a rival, indeed, to Stephen King.”
From the author of the international and New York Times bestseller Let the Right One In (Let Me In) comes this stunning and terrifying book which begins when a man's six-year-old daughter vanishes.One ordinary winter afternoon on a snowy island, Anders and Cecilia take their six-year-old daughter Maja across the ice to visit the lighthouse in the middle of the frozen channel. While the couple explore the lighthouse, Maja disappears -- either into thin air or under thin ice -- leaving not even a footprint in the snow. Two years later, alone and more or less permanently drunk, Anders returns to the island to regroup. He slowly realises that people are not telling him all they know; even his own mother, it seems, is keeping secrets. What is happening in Domaro, and what power does the sea have over the town's inhabitants?

As he did with Let the Right One In and Handling the Undead, John Ajvide Lindqvist serves up a blockbuster cocktail of suspense in a narrative that barely pauses for breath.
My take: This one grabbed me immediately and did not let go until the very end of the book. It surprised me at every turn. It thrilled me, horrified me, sickened me, and was executed with expert timing. I was completely mystified as the book introduces the island, the geographical features and the water surrounding it. We meet Simon, an old magician who has lived on the island for decades. He has close relationships with the citizens of the island that translate to family. He also has secrets. Actually, they all have secrets, some bigger than others.

Then we meet Anders, Simon's lover's grandson who views Simon as his grandfather. Anders and his wife, Cecilia are walking out to the lighthouse with their 6 year old daughter, Maja, while Simon watches from afar. We toggle from Simon to the lighthouse where Anders et. al. enter lighthouse and Maja disappears without a trace.

The story skips around chronologically as characters are developed, histories revealed, secrets unearthed. Mysteries are encoded then decoded but some never resolve themselves adequately for me. Honestly, though, it was a completely engrossing read as the story unfolds. The chronology is not confusing but makes sense in the way the characters reveal themselves and their secrets.

But people are not the only one with secrets. The island itself holds secrets as does the sea.

The tone changes near the end to horrifying and then more horrifying. Then it didn't make sense. So much is resolved in a somewhat satisfactory way but some aspects left me still scratching my head. Maybe it was the translation, although up until that point it was artistically written. Like I mentioned, it was riveting. But then it just got too weird.

The storytelling itself is a solid 5 stars.
The character development is 4 stars.
It was the resolution left me unsettled.

3.5 stars overall


Jessica ( frellathon ) said...

I read and reviewed this one not long ago. Totally agree the ending wasn't perfect but a great read none the less.

Cozy in Texas said...

This looks intriguing, but I don't think I could read anything where a child disappears - that in itself is scary.