Review by Booklist Review
The second installment in a proposed trilogy about the chaotic and comic life of Ingemar Wallis Rutger Johansson. The first book was My Life as a Dog [BKL Je 15 90], the source of Jonsson's Oscar-winning screenplay. As the saga continues, Johansson has joined the Swedish merchant marines, following in the footsteps of his ever-absent, dismayingly selfish father. After warning us that he has "a magnetic ability to adhere to life's exaggerations," our hero launches into a hilarious and highly doubtful account of foolhardy, life-threatening escapades both aboard ship and in port at locales ripe for trouble: Australia, South Africa, and Nigeria. These tales of sharks, thieves, mutilation, and insanity are told in flashbacks as Johansson engages in hopeless arguments with his passionate and unreasonable wife in Algiers. Jonsson's humor is aggressive, but he can turn a phrase with great delicacy, keeping you off balance between slapstick and pathos. Admirers of his previous novel, and the film of the same name, won't be disappointed. ~--Donna Seaman
From Booklist, Copyright (c) American Library Association. Used with permission.
Review by Publisher's Weekly Review
In this engaging sequel to My Life as a Dog (the second book in a proposed trilogy), Ingemar Johansson travels from Stockholm to Algiers in 1976 to visit his wife, Louise, from whom he has recently separated. Louise tells Ingemar he must grow up and find himself. Ingemar decides to stay in Algiers and look. Through his dreams and reminiscences--which sometimes reconstruct the same stories differently--Ingemar tells colorful tales from his years at sea, recalling adventures that take the reader from Africa to Australia. In one, he and his sailor father, serving on sister ships, are saved from the assault of a crazy Dane by a song and a Tuborg beer; their emotional estrangement persists, however. Ingemar lives in a world of his own wild anecdotes, shielding himself from the pain of his mother's death and his father's abandonment. Ultimately, he returns home, vowing to break out of the past and be a real father to his own son. Ingemar's humor, irony and innocence, combined with what he calls his ``magnetic field of foolishness'' make Jonsson's novel at once engrossing, outrageous and poetic. (Oct.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Review by Kirkus Book Review
Swedish writer Jonsson offers a farcical sequel to My Life as a Dog (1990) that is neither as unified nor as moving: here, his protagonist struggles through a difficult marriage and remembers his father and his own traveling days as a deckhand aboard merchant ships. ``I do everything too late,'' Ingemar Johansson tells us, continuing his chronicle of abashed loneliness. This time he begins in 1976 in Algiers, where he and his wife Louise (``Life and death go hand in hand. Always'') are detained. Louise, he says later, is ``a totally instinctive volcano,'' and he's ``a frail piece of wood, accidentally falling into the volcano and burning up.'' Jonsson uses memory as structure; a triple-deck narrative tells the tragicomic story of the slapstick life aboard ship, his marriage, and the near-mythological search for his father (``Why did he always have to cut us down to a very small size?''). The shipboard saga (Australia, Nigeria, and other ports of call, plus eccentrics like Eight--``a madman who respects neither life nor death'') is more or less amusing, especially a long story concerning sharks and a wheelchair in 1962 when Ingemar, with his ``overdeveloped sensitivity,'' was a ``crazy paid-by-the-hour laborer.'' But such anecdotes become repetitive; the marital squabbles get bogged down; and the search for the seaman father is too episodic to be sustained. Ingemar comes across finally like a neurotic, ineffectual Pippi Longstocking. Overall, this reads like what it is--the second book in a proposed trilogy, not quite here nor there. Occasional picaresque high moments and horseplay, as well as an effective rendering of dislocation, ultimately survive a ballast of soggy hit-or-miss adventures.
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