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Ate into my sleeping time
on 15 April 2003
10pm 12th-April: Fatigued I embark upon “The Ringmasters Daughter” intending to have a brief foray and lull myself to sleep.
2am 13th-April: Completed the book, more awake than I was when I picked it up, with a mind full of whats/whys/whos/hows spinning around in my mind, trying to digest what Gaarder intended to convey.
If you're a Gaarder fan this book is a must, if you're not (yet) one “The Ringmasters Daughter” is as good a (but darker) place to start as “Solitaire Mystery”.
This book is everything you'd expect and a little that you wouldn't. Take one precocious child (preferably from a broken home) weave an enchanting story around them, add in Alice-in-wonderland-esque fantasy elements, stir, sprinkle on some pithy ontological insights and you have a Gaarder novel. Although that doesn't quite cover it, Gaarder has a little more; elements of this book took me aback and left me wondering. The best way I can allude to it, is a gust of Artic wind blowing across you when you're on a beach trying to sunbathe. From his previous works I didn't expect parts of what I got, I couldn't help but think “Sophie would never do that”, “I hope Hans never gets to hear about this”. Gaarder is sticking his inimitable recipe but adding a bit more and it makes for a different yet appetising dish.
Gaarder tells the story in a way that glues you to the book. The main impetus of the story is Petter's auto-biographical narration, but Gaarder cleverly spins offs new threads, not least in the protagonists storytelling abilities. The loose ends are slowly weaved back into the main thread or cut off completely, leaving you guessing right up until the crescendo.