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This Norwegian writer's first novel, Sophie's World (1994), used the guise of a novel-within-a-novel to present a droll history of philosophy, apparently intended for adolescents. It's unclear this time out who Gaarder imagines his audience to be. While the bare outlines of the story (a young boy and his despairing father go in search of the boy's mother, who has abandoned them; the boy is given a book, possibly magical, by a kindly old man; the book unlocks a series of remarkable revelations about the boy's life) might seem to be aimed at children or young adults, some of the imagery is dauntingly arcane. The book the boy is given is the history of two men, marooned 50 years apart on a magical island. The first man, his imaginative powers mysteriously enhanced, brings a deck of playing cards to life. The second man (the grandson of the first) sets in motion a series of events that lead to the island's destruction; he and the Joker escape. The Joker, who "sees too deeply and too much," is the only one of the cards to wonder about his origins and purpose in life. Hans Thomas, the little boy, turns out to be the descendant to these castaways. The Joker, ever-youthful, takes an interest in the boy, helping Hans and his father to reunite with Hans' mother. There are passages here (on the wonderful island, the lives of the figures who have emerged from the deck of cards, the debates on life's purpose) that are ingenious and startling, reminiscent of the philosophical fantasies of the Victorian writer George MacDonald. But too often Gaarder's musings seem repetitious, the imagery hazy, the conclusions unsurprising.
Fascinating and frustrating in equal measure.
Posted April 10, 2013
I am reading this in class and was wondering if anyone had any advise for me. I would love to hear about your favorite part or a line you thought was really special. Title your entry: To Student. Thanks for your help!Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
While not as directly philosophical as his earlier (and excellent book) “Sophie’s World”, "The Solitaire Mystery" uses a story within a story to pose similar questions. Who are you? Why are you here? Where did you come from? And, most importantly, how do you know these answers? The tale itself is a fanciful but fun narrative of a philosophically inclined father and his son traveling to Athens, Greece (!) to find a parent who left them years ago. But on the way, son Hans Thomas has mysterious encounters that result in possession of a book so small it requires a magnifying glass to read. The story in the book relates the story of yet another traveler who is stranded on an island inhabited by characters that are strikingly similar to a pack of cards including the Queen of Hearts (Hello, Alice!) and the Joker, the later playing a prominent role throughout the story. How these cards came to life is reminiscent of the Bishop Berkeley’s ideas on why we exist (we are visions in the eyes of God). This is a great tale for those who like stories with a strong philosophical bent, and even for those who don’t.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted January 10, 2001
The Solitaire Mystery consecutively traces the journeys of Hans Thomas, as he travels to Athens in search of his mother, and of Baker Hans, whom Hans Thomas reads about in the Sticky Bun Book. Wound into the story are the philosophical ponderings of Hans Thomas' father, who simply cannot believe how incredible it is to be alive. It all begins when a baker gives Hans Thomas four sticky buns, one containing a mysterious surprise. Ultimately, Hans Thomas comes face to face with his own destiny, as he realises how fate has woven itself into his life in the form of a pack of cards.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.