The Rock Blaster

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Member Reviews

When we first meet Oskar Johansson, it is as the victim of a rock blasting accident. He is only twenty-three years old, and we witness the blast as a terrible black smudge on an innocent worker's life. Yet the reader should withhold their pity before hearing Oskar's true story. He is a man of few words, drumming the index finger and thumb of his remaining hand on the table.

Oskar is an endearing character, but I had a hard time following the timeline and narration of the story. In one thread, there is an ongoing interview between an elderly Oskar and an unknown interviewer. In another thread, a third-person account of Oskar's life is given in present tense. The second thread jumps wildly about through decades of Oskar's life like a montage. We hear about his recovery after the accident, how he met his wife, his political involvement, and other small moments of family life. Yet in sum, I felt that Oskar's outline was never quite clear, as if the author had used a thick-tipped marker. This effect was magnified by Mankell's almost brusquely short sentences and repetition of key phrases describing Oskar.

As a reader, I wished there was more insight into Oskar's thought processes and less of the author telling me that he was an ordinary man with dreams of social revolution. I most remember the mundane scenes of Oskar's daily life: his habits, amusements, annoyances, and random impulses. There was no lack of such rich material, but I felt it was often drowned out by the author's insistence on typifying Oskar.
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Henning Mankells first novel is fiction literary fiction at its best his writing talent his way of drawing us into a mans life the time the place.A man hurt by an explosion a hand severed an eye lost but still Oskar a very young man survives marries has children lives a life.A read that truly brings Oskar and his world alive.Mankells talent was obvious from this first book.#netgalley #knopfdoubleday.
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4 stars

This is Henning Mankell's first novel published only now in English. It is a distinct departure from his Wallander series. I loved the Wallander novels for the most part and was interested in reading this book about a different topic. 

This is the story of Oskar Johansson from his point of view as told to a friend and fishing companion later in Oskar's life. The book alternates between 1911 and later in Oskar's life – about the 1960's. 

As with many of us, Oskar's memories have a way of shifting about; one time he recalls it this way and another he remembers it another way. 

Oskar's story is one of a poor working class man who endures and perseveres following a dynamite blast that nearly kills him early in the 1900's. 

The book is a treatise on what it means to be poor in the early 20th Century. Oskar dabbled with socialism seeing the obvious need for change in the average Swedish worker's conditions. He discusses his first love, Ellie and his subsequent marriage to her sister. Oskar talks about his hopes and dreams and how things turned out to depart from those hopes and dreams.

The book is written in an unusual style. It is not linear. It skips around and is, at times, a little confusing to follow. But is is a remarkable expose on the daily struggle and living conditions for the average working class Swedish citizen. Previously, I did not know much about this period in Swedish life, nor given it much thought. I'm glad I took the time to read this novel – and by one of my favorite authors.

I want to thank NetGalley and Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group/Vintage for forwarding to me a copy of this most interesting book for me to read, enjoy and review.
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