The Solitaire Mystery [NOOK Book]


The story of a boy and his father on a car trip through Europe, searching for the boy's mother, who left many years ago to find herself. Structured as a deck of cards -- each chapter is one card in the deck -- The Solitaire Mystery subtly weaves together fantasy and reality, fairy tales and family history.

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The Solitaire Mystery

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The story of a boy and his father on a car trip through Europe, searching for the boy's mother, who left many years ago to find herself. Structured as a deck of cards -- each chapter is one card in the deck -- The Solitaire Mystery subtly weaves together fantasy and reality, fairy tales and family history.

Read More Show Less

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Admirers of Gaarder's first translated work, the bestselling Sophie's World, will be familiar with this Norwegian ex-philosophy teacher's talent for transforming what is essentially a vigorous round of mental aerobics into unpredictable, absorbing fun. This novel, which was published in Norway before Sophie's World, is another offbeat delight, ontology masquerading as an ingeniously constructed fairy tale. It tells the story of the 12-year-old Hans Thomas, who is driving with his father from Norway to Greece in a quest to retrieve his errant mother. The plot thickens when a midget at a gas station on the Swiss border slips Hans Thomas a miniature magnifying glass, and then the next evening, on a stop in Dorf, a kindly old baker presents him with a correspondingly tiny book and swears him to secrecy. As Hans Thomas sneaks looks at the book, between sightseeing and philosophizing with his father on their trip south, it gradually unfurls a strange story of a shipwrecked sailor and his rather unusual game of solitairea story that has puzzling links with Hans Thomas's own life. By the time the mystery is resolved, Hans Thomas and his family learn important lessons about themselves and their past, as Gaarder walks the reader through a complex inquiry into the nature of being and destiny. Less light-footed than Sophie's World, this work relies on fantastical symbolism for its central allegory; some readers will find a plot that hinges on such elements as a magic vanishing island and sparkling Rainbow Soda too corny for their tastes. Others, however, will deem it enchanting, especially since all the whimsy is balanced by deft portraits of Hans Thomas and his gruff, good-hearted father. (July)
The ALAN Review - Jeanne M. Gerlach
This book is structured as a deck of cards, with each chapter representing one card in the deck. It combines reality, fantasy, and family history to help young Hans Thomas discover the meaning of life. Readers travel from Norway to Greece with Hans and his father as they search for Hans' mother, who left them years earlier. Reading the memoirs of a shipwrecked sailor compels Hans to learn about the distant past in an effort to understand his mother's disappearance. The Solitaire Mystery is a compelling and exciting read that may encourage young readers to think more about the meaning of their own lives.
Library Journal
Gaarder Sophie's World LJ 9/1/94 once again presents a charming fantasy in which a young person discovers his identity and a missing parent by means of written communications that are not to be shared with grown-ups. Hans Thomas and his bibulous father are driving to Greece from Norway in search of Hans's long-missing mother. They encounter a dwarf who gives Hans a magnifying glass with which he can secretly read a miniature book delivered to him in a sticky bun. Though the symbolism of the deck of cards in the mystery is transparent, the reader will enjoy the cleverness with which the story is assembled. Less didactic than Sophie's World, this novel still probes philosophical questions. Recommended for adult and young adult collections in public libraries. [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 3/15/96.]Ann Irvine, Montgomery Cty. P.L., Silver Spring, Md.
School Library Journal
YAThere are both similarities and differences between this novel and Gaarder's previous book, Sophie's World Farrar, 1994. Both are fantasies involving an interconnected story-within-a-story, an absent parent, and lessons in philosophy. Here, however, the emphasis is on the stories and not the lessons, and the characters really come alive. Hans Thomas, 12, and his father journey from Norway to Greece, seeking Hans Thomas's mother, who abandoned them when the boy was 4. During their journey, Hans Thomas is given a tiny book and a magnifying glass so he can read about the fantastic adventures of Baker Hans, who was marooned on a island where playing cards came to life, rainbow soda altered taste and consciousness, and beautiful goldfish figured importantly. YAs will find the fairy tale in the tiny book pure entertainment; the larger story explores issues such as dependence on a single parent with a drinking problem, a boy's feelings about a mother he can barely remember, and the child's struggle to understand a troubled family history.Molly Connally, Kings Park Library, Fairfax County, VA
Liz Rifken
Gaarder, a former high-school philosophy teacher and author of the best-selling novel "Sophie's World" (1994), displays his effervescent knack for uncovering the meaning of life in this mercurial and enigmatic odyssey. Precocious 12-year-old Hans Thomas, eight years after his mother deserts the family in a quest to find herself, accompanies his lonely father on a mission to bring her home. In a mystical trek from Norway to Greece, Hans learns about his inescapable destiny through a miniscule book hidden in a sticky bun. He must use a magnifying glass, inexplicably gifted to him by a midget, to read about his heritage and future. This innovative work of fiction was originally published in Norway six years ago. It is creatively presented to the reader as a deck of cards; each chapter symbolizes one playing card and reveals one portion of the mystery, which is shrouded in a game of solitaire. Gaarder tells this intriguing and bewitching tale with fanciful elements that seek to awaken the dormant child within the reader.
Kirkus Reviews
A playful, ingenious, frequently moving but occasionally perplexing celebration of our persistent search for answers to the ultimate questions—Who are we? Where have we come from? Where are we going?—disguised as a fairy tale/adventure.

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.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781466804555
  • Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
  • Publication date: 11/1/2003
  • Sold by: Macmillan
  • Format: eBook
  • Pages: 250
  • Sales rank: 392,556
  • File size: 2 MB

Meet the Author

Jostein Gaarder was born in Oslo, Norway, in 1952. He taught high-school philosophy for several years before publishing a collection of short stories in 1986 and, shortly thereafter, his first two novels, The Solitaire Mystery and Sophie’s World, and several others since then. He lives in Oslo with his family.
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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 5
( 13 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 14 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted August 2, 2006

    An unforgettable novel.

    I first read this novel at the age of twelve, and it's one of the select few I've re-read. The story is such that readers of all denominations (or lack thereof) can relate. Highly recommended for those that appreciate thought-provoking stories off the beaten path.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 3, 2002

    one of my favorite books

    Books dominate my home; even with six bookcases, there are also quite a few 2-foot-high stacks of books that haven't don't have a bookshelf to sit on. But after I finished Solitaire Mystery, I deliberately cleared a place next to my most treasured books -- signed hardcovers of favorite authors -- for it. It was much too important to me to leave lying in one of those piles on the floor. // Part of the enjoyment for me is the rare combination of simplicity and complexity. The adept mixture of magic into a very real world is good enough to recommend the book on its own, but the way multiple literary threads are woven into a deceptively easy-to-read tapestry appeals to me very much. // I would recommend Solitaire Mystery to anyone who likes to ponder alternative explanations for commonly accepted events, anyone who enjoys allegory or especially multiple levels of allegory, anyone who enjoys good writing, any adult capable of still living the best parts of young adulthood, and for that part, anyone. Because so many of the tapestry's threads are common ones in my family (travel, cards, literature (we tend towards librarianism), etc.), Solitaire Mystery is the object I have deemed most worthy of giving to my mother this year for Mother's Day. Soon I will think of a good excuse to give it to my sister as well. // Enjoy!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 10, 2013

    Please help me

    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!

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  • Posted January 22, 2013

    I Also Recommend:

    While not as directly philosophical as his earlier (and excellen

    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.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 13, 2004

    Complimentary book to the living Book(bible)

    To me this is an awesome book. it definately compliments the bible even though it is not religiously based. i love it.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 21, 2004


    This has to be one of the most creative stories I have ever read. You can see similarities between this and Sophies World (another great Gaarder book) but I think this is the better of the two.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 20, 2003


    I thought that this book was absolutly amazing. It is now my favorite book. It gives an interesting look at family and fate while still playing on the side of fiction and fantasy. I couldn't put it down.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 4, 2003


    You will read this book over and over again it just gets more and more interesting everytime you read it. For once its a book that is genuinely interesting. While its not overly complicated it definately makes you think. Everytime you read it you pick up on something new. Great book, i would recommend it to anyone

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 23, 2002

    Truly Magnificent

    The story of a young norwegian boy, that travels to Greece with his father, to find back his mother who left them, receives a magical touch fairly early in the book; a small book comes in Hans¿ possession and a magical world is being opened up. If you read the story in the story, you become completely absorbed by this world and you¿ll be amazed of the fine webbing of this story. The carefully build up & brilliantly constructed story turns and flows, touches and confronts. The reader will definitely feel a changed person, after realizing the contents and if he or she stops and thinks about the raised questions.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 10, 2001

    Joker's Wild!

    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.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 8, 2001

    Absolutely Outstanding

    The novel, The Solataire Mystery, was an outstanding book. I recommend this book to anyone from teenager on up. I read it my senior year in high school, but have also enjoyed reading it again and again since then. If you are a believer in fate and destiny this book will definitely spark your interest and also adds a little insight into philosophy. I enjoyed this book very much and highly recommend it.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 24, 2000

    Are you a Joker? Read on to find out.. .

    This book by Jostein Gaarder reminds us all of the beauty of life. He challenges us, through the Joker and the other 52 cards, never to lose the excitement of a breathtaking sunset and never to forget to follow our dreams. The parallel stories of the boy and the deck and the boy searching for his mother make the book twice as interesting. This is a must read for anyone who still has some soul-searching left to do!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 17, 2000

    I love this book

    it's just so amazing. i love how the 52 cards are 52 people. Guaranteed to be great!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 4, 2010

    No text was provided for this review.

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