Sunday, March 6, 2011

The Blue Place, Stay & Always by Nicola Griffith

Nicola Griffith hasn't written many books, they tend to be science fiction stand-alone novels - except for one crime series set in America and Norway. Like all her books, it's extremely good literature and deservedly award winning. Sadly, she's an obscure enough author that most of her titles never make it as far as New Zealand.

The series follows Aud Torvingsen, a Norwegian who's now rather Americanised, and is powerful, cut off from most of the world and has trouble connecting to people. Her extremely rich father left her a fortune, granting her enough money to allow her float around and solve almost all problems by throwing money at them if she chooses. Oh, and she's happily, matter of factly, lesbian - and untouchable enough, through position and physical ability, that no-one ever makes an issue of it.


There are three books so far:
  ;  

I'll state now that I read the series backwards, which was... interesting. It doesn't ruin the books as the location and plot shifts each time, but each one builds on the book before, so reading them in order makes for a much richer experience.

 She joins the police force in the lead up to The Blue Place, but has to leave due to death, politics and personal preference. In The Blue Place, she's drifting and empty, then meets Julia and gets dragged back into the world, a little.

I haven't yet read Stay, but it's the book where she locks herself away in grief, before having to come to the rescue of a friend's fiancée and getting involved in saving a child from a psychopath.

Always follows her as she learns to live again and tries to involve herself - teaching a womens' self defense course, taking a hand in her personal financial affairs - and finally, falling in love again. Nicola Griffith draws on her own experiences teaching self-defence and real statistics, and it shows.

Major themes throughout the series are Aud's very distant and formal relationship with her mother, her childhood in Norway and her views of herself as Norwegian (or not), and an incredible eye for beauty paralleled with violence and vulnerability. As the narrative is from Aud's perspective, we get a strong feel for her personality - she's the sort of woman who notices the sparkle of dew, the emptiness of the Fjords, and the grace of a woman's neck... while also seeing how easy it would be to hide a body there, or snap that neck with one hand. She's constantly baffled by how unaware most people are of basic safety precautions, and is a little too obsessed with control, to the point it damages her life. She loves food. And she'll be utterly confused when she comes across as heartless or insulting, leaving the person she was trying to connect with in tears or fury, while she stares blankly at them.

Awards
Always won Reader's Choice award, while The Blue Place won the Lambda Literary award, and Stay won InsightOut Best Novel and was a Lambda Literary Award finalist (Lesbian Fiction, 2002).

Individual Reviews

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