Book review: Broken by Karin Fossum
Posted on Tuesday, November 23rd, 2010
Karin Fossum’s Broken is blessed with weird locations, insightful art knowledge and a fantastic heroin addict personality. On the downside, the main character, Alvar Eide, is a tad dull and the plot is thin.
The story begins in an anonymous author’s home, presumably Karin’s. She is a pill-popping, middle-aged woman with a cat. She typically drinks a bottle of burgundy, a Zyprexa for anxiety, a Cipralex for Depression and a Zopiclone to make her sleep. After that lot it seems normal that she can visualise her prospective fictional characters in a line outside her window.
When one of the characters breaks into her home, she is persuaded to write a story about him. He becomes a 42-year-old, single, art gallery worker who lives just outside Drammen, a city in Norway. In other words, he’s a bit of a loser and will, a few chapters in, get on your nerves.
Luckily, his saving characteristic is his understanding of art. I think he really captures what it’s like for people to walk round a contemporary art gallery such as Gallery Krantz. At one extreme are people with confidence and knowledge of art and at the other are yuppies who want a mega picture to show off to their guests.
Alvar Eide is also saved by the entry of a heroin addict. She walks into his gallery one day and shakes up his life. Fossum (with credit to her translator Charlotte Barslund) describes her appearance and habits beautifully, from her spiky high heels to her heroin addiction. Lindys or Elsa or Helle (she goes by many names) is petulant, manipulative, controlling, damaged and beautiful. In short, she’s a lot more entertaining than Alvar who eventually she takes control over.
The relationship between Alvar and Lindys is at the core of the plot. As polar opposites, they both clash and have mutual respect for one another. While Lindys basically moves herself into Alvar’s flat, taking his key and (excuse the pun) regular injections of his cash, they grow to appreciate each other’s company. They are both losers in society’s eyes and don’t have any other friends.
Granted, this is a psychological thriller, but it could do with a bit more action. It reminds me very much of John Colapinto’s, About the Author, which, in my opinion, has a very holey plot and also a hell-raising teenage girl as the antagonist. Fossum has said herself that she doesn’t do plots. I think this is a shame as any story needs a few twists and turns. There are some, but not nearly enough.
Fossum’s strength is her writing which is edgy and elegant at the same time and makes Broken worth reading. However, while an author can empathise with her disinterest in plots, I think the reader will be less kind.
- Author: Karin Fossum
- Hardcover: 272 pages
- Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt; 1 edition (August 1, 2010)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0151013667
- ISBN-13: 978-0151013661