West of the West Wind – Nils-Johan Jørgensen

51So-GksydL._Nils-Johan Jørgensen is a master teller of folk tales for children which draw on myth and legend from cultures around the world. His first collection; North of the North Wind included four stories based on Nordic fairy tales, set in curious dreamscapes. His second, East of the East Wind, incorporate oriental themes and lore to create beguiling modern-day fables. West of the West Wind continues the series in the same tradition, featuring three beautifully illustrated stories; The Library, Wolves and the Silence of the Sail. This time, our heroes face adversarial situations and malevolent foes which challenge every bit of their strength and courage. Dark and foreboding, these stories will appeal to older children’s love of the bizarre and sinister.

For me Norway and nature are synonymous, situated at the edge of things.  This mystical place conjures up frozen wastes, surrealness and a certain mournfulness that is at once as pleasing as it is anguishing. Michael Avery’s art work which accompanies each story complements this feeling and is wonderfully rendered.  The pencil drawings show the contrast of nature and humans vividly.

Former diplomat Nils-Johan Jørgensen has successfully managed to combine these traits into his latest collection of stories in a way that will appeal to both adults and children.  With its focus on the human ideals and the misdirection that life constantly throws at us.

The first story is set in World War II, following a boy attempting to stop books being burned and focusses on the themes of confusion, fear, censorship and loss but also exudes a love of words and thoughts upon the legacy of humanity.  A constant running throughout the book is that circumstances are not always as they appear to be, preconceptions are usually proved wrong in a gentle way, reminding us of the flaws of preconception in our minds and lives.

The second story, again set during World War II follows the attempts of three children to survive in the mountains and avoid the attention of the advancing German army. A strong sense of nature is rife here backed up by heroics, compassion and sadness. For a short story,  I felt this one writhed about adding many pleasing twists and an ending which will stay with me for a while yet.

The last story has a change of time, being set in the middle of the 19th century and tells a tale of Thomas who wishes to be free from a life of just surviving, to start again over in the New World.  It’s hard to pick a favourite story, at this moment in time though this is the one for me (opinions subject to change on an hourly basis).  The tale of the family, the trials and tribulations the sacrifices and ultimately the conclusion all amalgamate to make a powerful and bittersweet experience…

The meaning in this life is to create meaning.  That’s all we can do.  It’s not easy.

Lots of themes run through this book whether it be the loss of innocence that can’t fail to affect the reader, or the message of courage and compassion, you will take from this all the good things that one takes from any adversarial situation.  With hardship can come better days – times of change not just in growing up and losing one’s naïveté  but of wider developments in the world.  It is tempting to demolish the whole book in one sitting but to do so is a mistake it should be truly savoured for as long as possible.

I was fortunate to be sent a copy for review by Book Guild Publishing and on looking at the prices, although the paperback seems a tad pricey (in my opinion) at £8.99 for 64 pages in reality for the quality of the prose and art it is not.  The book did leave me feeling thoughtful and thoroughly satisfied, which is the very essence of a good book.  It is one for all ages and I know my copy will be read through many times, the simple act of reading is never more joyous when a book makes you feel like this one does.

If anybody else would like a book reviewing…please use the Contact Ste! page above to get in touch but please bear with me as I am inundated with books at the moment which I working my way through as productively as sanity allows.

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29 Replies to “West of the West Wind – Nils-Johan Jørgensen”

    1. And thank you for sending me the book…I always find any books I have no prior knowledge of can be hit and miss and this one was a big hit with me.

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  1. This sounds like really fascinating stuff (I’m addicted to folk tales and fairy tales, the more inventive the better). Have you ever read any of A.S. Byatt? She makes extensive of fairy and folk tales and their motifs in a lot of her work.

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    1. I own The Children’s Book but have not gotten around to it yet, it takes me a while but I will get there eventually. I will try and get around to her sometime this year when the books sent to me slow down a tad.

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      1. Byatt’s collection of stories “Elementals” is another good one, and has the virtue of being shorter than “The Children’s Book,” though I think the latter is a masterpiece.

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        1. I am looking forward to it again…sometimes I see the same books that many times that I fall out of love with them a tad until someone comes along to inspire me to give them a go. As my review list has been added to with another two books this weekend I shall be making sure the future I keep your words in mind for the future.

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  2. A great review there Ste J. But there again, you always do give an honest opinion. I think I will wait for it to come out on Kindle. £8.99 for 64 pages is way over the top for me, no matter how good the book is.

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    1. I should have said there is a Kindle version out there as well, priced at £3.99 which is well worth the money, I don’t know how good the Kindle or indeed any e-reading device is when it comes to the artwork…hopefully that will not be an issue.

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    1. The art work is great throughout the book, it has this way of showing how sparse and open Norway is whilst focusing on certain things in great detail. I think this is one of those books that you buy for a gift and then keep it because it’s to sad to part with it.

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      1. Now that I know the art work is as great throughout the book, it makes me want to read/look at it even more. I know what you mean by those books that you initially buy as a gift and then end up keeping for yourself!

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            1. Or something for a cross dressers club…I have no idea if they do have clubs, although if you are feeling adventurous I would love to read the blog post in which you write about your experiences! hahaha

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    1. It pleases me greatly when I find a book that I can get so passionate about and this one was a pleasure to read and review, which is one heck of a combination.

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  3. This sounds so good!!! I definitely want them all!
    Maybe I’ll wait for the fourth (I suppose there will be one on the South) and then get them all in one purchase. 🙂

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    1. I like your thinking. I’m intrigued about the others as well, if they are up to the same standard which I would expect then it’ll be one mighty collection.

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  4. Okay, you have got to stop reviewing such wonderful books. My to buy list is growing by leaps and bounds. This seems a wonderful read and the art work alone would be worth the price. Oh, and I love your line..”This mystical place conjures up frozen wastes, surrealness and a certain mournfulness that is at once as pleasing as it is anguishing.” Goodness, your writing is better than poetry.

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    1. If I stopped reviewing books I would have to find something else to do (other than sulk) and I would have to plan world domination or some such and nobody wants that. Every so often I craft a line in my posts that I am proud of and i think hat may be one of them I am totally satisfied with…a small victory but one that makes me happy.

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