Friday, September 02, 2016

Karl Ove Knausgaard's My Struggle Book 3

Book three of Karl Ove Knausgaard's memoir (which is somehow fictional non-fiction) is exclusively about his early childhood, up until he is about 12-13 years old. It started very slowly for me, and then gained steam.

The two main themes are grappling with his abusive father and dealing with early adolescence, which for him involved a lot of shame. Shame at how he cried easily, was weak physically, and was seen as effeminate. His father, who was cruel in many ways, also made him feel worse about all those things.

The real hook of this book is how well he makes you feel what he feels. I cringed more than once as I read, because he puts you inside his own mind and you know this encounter with a girl will turn out badly, or that his father is going to get enraged at what he's doing (such as losing a sock at the pool--as soon as it was clear the sock was gone, we all knew his father would go after him). It doesn't help that you know he eventually becomes a successful writer, gets married, has children, etc. When you're reliving puberty you don't think about that.

In all this his mother is a bit of an enigma. He is close to her, but she seems to lack empathy, and she does not seem to come to terms with how horrible her husband is to their children (perhaps that gets clarified in later books). Meanwhile, you get a clear sense of how much he loves his brother, to whom he always goes when he has problems, and who finally stands up to his father.

Here are my reviews of Book 1 and Book 2.


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