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THE GIRL WHO KICKED THE HORNET’S NEST By Stieg Larsson (Viking Canada)<br> This summer, was anyone not reading one of Stieg Larsson’s three fat novels? (There were to be 10, but Larsson unco-operatively died at 50.) For a few, the appeal of the series remains, well, mysterious. But millions are happy to immerse themselves in Larsson’s Sweden, a world of corruption, misogyny and not a little heroism. As in the first two volumes, Globe and Mail reviewer Peter Robinson said, the heart and soul is the anti-heroine, the brilliant and damaged Lisbeth Salander. This finale begins just as the middle volume closed; the pages turn rapidly as Salander finds herself not only in hospital and near death, but wanted for murder.
FREEDOM By Jonathan Franzen (HarperCollins)<br> Greeted by hallelujah choruses as the Great American Novel (even compared to "War and Peace"), Franzen’s sharp social satire of American society has lately also had its detractors, which did not stop it from flying off the shelves (real and digital). It is rich in character and incident and family dysfunction, Globe reviewer Zsuzsi Gartner wrote, and “Franzen's coup is that he has figured out how to be entertaining, sharp-witted and accessible while maintaining a sense of higher purpose. I thoroughly enjoyed this intellectual soap opera of love, sex, liberal guilt and flawed parenting.”
BEATRICE & VIRGIL By Yann Martel (Knopf Canada)<br> The provenance of this supposed Holocaust allegory (actually, it isn’t) cum taxidermy novel is well known; how Martel’s high-concept work had to go through several incarnations before it appeared, eagerly awaited successor to the beloved "Life of Pi." In the event, "Beatrice & Virgil" took a critical thumping and sales disappointed. But Globe reviewer Pasha Malla wrote that, despite the book’s lack of narrative drive, it “not only opens us to the emotional and psychological truths of fiction, but also provides keys to open its fictions ourselves, and to become … active participants in their creation.”
LIFE By Keith Richards (Little, Brown)<br> This memoir by the hard-to-believe-he’s-still-alive emotional centre of the Rolling Stones is on thousands of birthday and Christmas wish lists. And, as he has so often, drug-addled or sober, Keef rocks out. As Globe reviewer Alan Niester wrote: “For all his faults, blemishes, and bluster, you will probably end up admiring him, because he comes across as overly honest, forthright and open, not so much an Old God as a true veteran rocker and bluesman for whom the music always seemed like the most important thing.”