A new Swedish mini-series (on Netflix), Quicksand, offers a shocking look at youth crime and drugs in a small city in Sweden. A very lovely 17-year-old high-achieving high school senior gets involved with a similar-aged male friend. While she is a sterling student, he is from a very rich family and rarely attends — let alone passes– his courses.
The young woman, Maja, is charged with murder and inciting violence when we find out about a mass-shooting in Maja’s classroom. A teen’s time in solitary in prison is well presented and the court case is impressive. There is no over-acting, little sentimentality and Maja’s relationship with adults, especially her parents, her boyfriend’s dad and her teacher are well sketched. When you’ve watched all the episodes, I’d like to know if you think justice would work the same way in Canada.
Very much worth watching is a quiet and stubbornly thoughtful film Leave No Trace (also on Netflix). A father and his 13-year-old daughter live in a camp they create in an Oregon forest. The forest is “public”park, and though the family treads lightly and is hurting no one, park authorities destroy their camp and toss them off the land. Their homelessness is short-lived when the authorities force the father and daughter to live as tenants on a Christmas tree farm. The father has to cut down harvest the trees while the girl goes to the local high school. There is suspense in this film, and watching it I found the subtext kindly and hostile at the same time. I highly recommend it; you won’t forget it.
The Goldfinch by Carel Fabritius, 1654.
The brilliant novel that held my attention for 600 pages is The Goldfinch. The book begins when a 13- year-old boy in New York City steals a Dutch master’s painting, The Goldfinch (pictured above), from a major gallery. Why he takes it, you have to discover — it all makes sense. His family falls apart, and he becomes a ward of social services. Finally, a long-lost father and his girlfriend take the boy to live live with them in Las Vegas. A decade passes and the now young man, back in New York, joins an older friend in his antiques business. This book shows the reader how much the author, Donna Tartt, knows. She knows about fine art and art theft; she knows about youth, drugs and social services; she knows about violence, gambling and casinos; she knows about antiques and furniture restoration. She understands the very rich and she knows about debt and larceny.
She knows about “Russian” or Ukrainian mobsters and Dutch paintings –and she writes about everything brilliantly. I downloaded the book on my e-reader and could go nowhere without reading a page –or 5 — in the supermarket, on the bus, waiting for a friend at a cafe. The GoldFinch takes you into a world that is exciting and a faux-visual delight. The book has unforgettable characters, irony a bit of humour and some tragedy.
Somehow this week I happened on a new French novel (in translation) called Adele. I don’t know if you’ll like it. Adele is a narcissist — luckily for her so is her husband. Her professed love for her 3 year-old son becomes a game, and the reader sees how Adele is consumed by her need to be loved and to be sexually exploited. It’s an easy read, and a tough read. I got it from the Halifax Public Library, which also has The Goldfinch.