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‘We need the literature of other countries to expand our
horizons and stimulate our ideas. Without it, we are not only
diminished, we are starved’
(The Times, Magnus Linklater 29/06/05)
Solitaire Mystery (The)
by Jostein Gaarder
Age Range: 12+
During a trip from Norway to Greece – the ancient home of Philosophers – 12-year-old Hans Thomas and his father go in search of Hans’ mother who disappeared eight years before, ‘to find herself’. Jostein Gaarder uses an intriguing and engaging non-nuclear family, to relate a story of worlds within worlds, as Hans struggles to understand his strife-riven family history. Set in the present and past, with a whole host of characters both real and imaginary, the story includes a magical dwarf who gives Hans a special magnifying glass so that he can read the miniature book discovered in a sticky bun, given to him by a mysterious old Baker.
Each chapter is symbolised by an individual card from a pack of cards including the often forgotten Joker. The journey allows the boy and his father to engage in some homespun philosophy that involves understanding the uniqueness of life and destiny, and allows the reader to appreciate the randomness of life and the effects that the actions of today can have for future generations.
This is a compelling book full of puzzles and mystery, humour and optimism, and Sarah Jane Hails’ translation has captured the spirit of this unusual story.
(Outside In: Children’s Books in Translation, Milet, 2005)