Tag Archives: psychic abilities

The Quiet Girl – Peter Høeg

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The Quiet Girl is not a novel to attempt in one day–or many days.  It’s a Fellini-esque, Dali-like  mind-warp filled with circus clowns, psychic children, J.S. Bach, some weird hyper-synesthesia, a plot that threatenes to take out Copehagen and disrupt the normal order of things, kidnapped children, villains, heroes, nuns and cops who can’t be pinned down or trusted.  Peter Høeg must mainline some serious mind-altering substances before he sits down to write every day.

Kasper Krone is an internationally-celebrated clown, addicted gambler wanted for a massive amount of unsettled debt, oddly able to hear tones, notes and music in everything and to identify people, emotions, motives and places just by listening.  He cuts a deal with some unholy powerful nuns to track down a group of kidnapped kids with dangerous psychic abilities in exchange for some relief from his legal problems. And he falls under the spell of one of those kids, a young girl named KlaraMaria who carries a silence around with her like an irresistible weapon. Krone is hooked. He is also betrayed, in life and in love, and constantly on the run. And his father is dying rather spectacularly but still willing to pull strings to find critical information. To make things more surreal, at dire moments Krone likes to play the violin with some virtuosity, favoring the Bach Chaconne, even when his wrist is broken. Some clown.

Half the time I had no idea what was going on. Maybe considerably more than half. The book was mesmerizing but I had no real hope of cracking its code. Høeg takes the idea of scene reversals very seriously–as soon as something happens another event immediately contradicts it and piles complication on complication. Plus, the main characters toss around philosophical observations and cryptic aphorisms like badminton shuttlecocks. And they shift in and out of villainy with every passing paragraph. Who are the actual bad guys–everybody? Nobody?

I think this is an anti-war philosophical thriller–that would be my best guess. But what I really think is that Høeg has written a book about what it is like to give yourself over to taking care of a child and to launching her, with all her fabulous new abilities, into a future you can only dimly see. Plot as metaphor. Why not? The circus is a performance of illusion and unpredictability; a clown’s routine is a theatrical interlude  in which anything might happen next–and often does. So is this really interesting, really baffling book. 

The Quiet Girl: A Novel   Peter Høeg | Farrar, Straus and Giroux    2006

The Farseekers – Isobelle Carmody

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In the second of Isobelle Carmody’s Obernewtyn Chronicles, The Farseekers, Elspeth leaves Obernewtyn on a quest to find a mysterious new Talent, a Misfit so powerful that the hidden community will not survive without it. The stakes are sharply higher in this book, as the ragged band of people with extraordinary mind abilities battles the Herders and guardsmen of a repressive regime, a settlement gathered around a patriarchal figure, Henry Druid, that contains secret Misfits of its own, the violent storms and unpredicatble weather that is the result of the Great White that nearly destroyed the planet, and the treachery of a renegade Misfit with a murderous grudge against Obernewtyn and its inhabitants.

Most of this book is a journey through tainted lands, perilous settlements and the events of deadly prophecies. Elspeth discovers that the beasts, the animals of the Obernewtyn farm and the surrounding countryside and mountains, have minds and abilities as formidable as the humans. In a library buried by ruins and ash for centuries, she finds evidence that the Misfits are an evolution of humans that was underway before the Great White, and not a freak result of the destruction that occurred as a result of the cataclysmic detonations from poisonous weapons. She also finds out that Rushton, the heir of Obernewtyn and the leader of the community there, harbors felings for her that go far beyond collegiality and admiration.

But Elspeth is the Seeker, the one who is fated to find the old machines that caused the Great White and destroy them before they can be used again. She permits herself no thoughts of a personal life while that terrible fate controls her life. The journey to the coast is full of misadventure, heroic rescues, astonishing discoveries, treachery and painful death. Evil is often outwitted but inevitably exacts a high price in suffering. Some appealing characters don’t survive. Other characters are revealed as unexpected allies.

The Obernewtyn Chronicles are an accomplished mix of fantasy and science fiction–with Tolkienesque rhythms and themes, believable characters and enough surprises to keep things interesting.  As I am overwhelmed by too much Real Life right now, and finding hours each day for reading is a challenge, I’ll probably finish the four I have–I might not recommend reading all of them in a marathon but they are entertaining and go quickly. By the time I finish (and I am not hunting for the rest of the books in this series just yet), I’ll be able to knock out a futuristic fantasy of my own. The pattern isn’t hard to discern, a fact that might inspire me to space the books more if I had the time.

The Farseekers: The Obernewtyn Chronicles 2   Isobelle Carmody | Random House  1990