Thursday, September 8, 2016

Review: "The Invoice" by Jonas Karlsson

Man was this novel fun. Picking up The Invoice, the new translation of Swedish author Jonas Karlsson, I had very little expectation as to what I would be in for. It had a fun premise and a neat cover and came across as an easy read. While it is a quick one (its 204 pages fly by quickly) it is also one of the most moving books I have read all year. It takes a really fantastic idea whose relatability can only be matched by the horror of it all, and not only choose not to go dark with the material, but makes a truly uplifting novel about the little things in life and beauty and that lies hidden within simplicity. As our unnamed narrator slowly slinks down this rabbit hole he has found himself in (with little choice to do otherwise) we not only learn about his life, whose sadness is not glorified, but with each subsequent turn in the plot we can’t help but put ourselves in the shoes of this prescient, hapless and interminably unlucky man whose only sin is that he was minding his own business and he was enjoying his life a little too much. The book opens as our narrator, a man on the verge of forty who has carved out a comfortable if quant existence for himself gets what might be the largest bill in the history of Sweden, 5,700,00 kroner (about $863,000) from a shadowy bureaucratic company with the initials W. R. D. He pays this no attention and goes about his day. He works a few days at a small video store that caters to film buffs, he has one miserly friend named Roger, and the rest of his time is spent watching movies, paying video games and eating at the same places. When a month goes by and the bill now has increased to 5,700,150 kroner, he gives the company a call. After spending days trying to get a hold of someone, he finds Maud on the other end, who informs him that he is being charged for the enjoyment he has had over his life (for a lack of a better description). As he tries his best to come to terms with his situation and attempts to find a way out, we are taken back to the times in his life that he is apparently being changed for. His parents are dead, all of his friends are married and busy, and he is still in love with an old college girlfriend that left him abruptly. While the plot is very Kafkaesque, the book is anything but bleak. The man’s fight to fix the bill, and really explain the dignity of his life and reason for being is a noble one, one that comes with the chance at a new relationship with the mysterious Maud and one which ends in a rather ambiguous and hopeful way. This is an easy book to fall in love with, and anyone whose ever felt that the simplicity they so cherish in life is leading that said life to pass them by will find great comfort with such a wonderful book.

Rating: 5/5

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