The Solitaire Mystery

September 19th, 2003 Comments Off on The Solitaire Mystery

The Solitaire Mystery, by Jostein Gaarder, is an interesting and modern fairy tale written in a style that will please young and adults readers alike. For young readers, it also serves as a light introduction to philosophy. Gaarder, the author of the best-selling Sophie’s World, writes in an enjoyable humorous way that makes for a good and funny reading time.

The book tells the story of Hans-Thomas, a twelve-year-old Norwegian boy that, in his father’s company, travels from his home to the land of the philosophers — Greece — in a quest to get back his mother, who had abandoned him eight years before to “find herself.” Hans-Thomas’ father, who is an amateur philosopher himself and a collector of Joker cards, seizes the opportunity to initiate his son in the rudiments of philosophy. During the trip, a midget in gas station gives the boy a small magnifying glass. Hans-Thomas doesn’t understand the purpose of the gift until, in the next day, in a small village, he is given another gift: a tiny book that can be read only with the help of the magnifying glass. The story of the book will reveal itself to be fundamental to Hans-Thomas understanding of the trip and of his own life. From those elements, Gaarder builds a good tale that explores the issues of destiny and existence.

Although I don’t often like stories told in first person, I liked that one. Gaarder manages to turn this point of view interesting enough by making the reader identify itself with Hans-Thomas as he tells about the trip, reads the tiny book, and muses about his life. I enjoyed that introspective quality of the narrative; it didn’t sound fake as many other first person books.

Overall, I recommend this book. The plot is fun and interesting. Although some of the events in the story are predictable, Gaarder often surprises the reader with some new developments that make up for the eventual predictability of the story. For a good afternoon reading session, the book is a good choice.

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