Summary and book reviews of Valentines by Olaf Olafsson

Valentines

By Olaf Olafsson

Valentines
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  • Hardcover: Jan 2007,
    224 pages.
    Paperback: Jan 2008,
    224 pages.

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Book Summary

From the acclaimed Icelandic author of Absolution, The Journey Home (now about to start filming under Liv Ullmann’s direction) and Walking into the Night: a haunting collection of thematically linked stories that encompasses the twelve months of a year, capturing the most candid moments between lovers, husbands and wives, parents and children–when truths and true feelings surge to the surface and everything changes.

Olaf Olafsson’s fans will recognize the perfect restraint and precision–and quick wit–with which he characteristically explores these dark epiphanies, when the heart is suddenly laid bare, whether by love or betrayal, disenchantment or regret, or the shock of loss. While their settings range from the East Coast to the West Coast, from Paris to Slovenia and Iceland, these contemporary stories probe the complexity of modern relationships over time. A wife realizes her closest confidante is much more than that. A father tries to make his new lover into the image of his late wife. A lusty photographer confronts his own mortality. A couple’s long-anticipated anniversary vacation opens onto the past. A husband, a wife, a child, a boating accident: no harm done . . . and yet?

Each of the twelve stories reveals another element in the agonizing nature of passion, diminished and yet sustained over time. This is a powerful work of fiction from one of our most gifted and subtle international writers at work today.

january

He had suspected he might have to spend the night in New York. The plane had left an hour late from Iceland and circled for a long time over Kennedy Airport before getting permission to land. The pilot had said there were problems on the ground with ice and strong crosswinds, and for a while it looked as if they would have to land somewhere else. But at last he began the descent, the flight attendants took their seats and those who were afraid said their prayers, promising to lead better lives in future.

Tomas, a seasoned traveler, wasn't worried. He knew there wouldn't be any flights to Chicago till the following day so he decided to go into Manhattan and spend the evening there. He liked the city and often traveled there on business, particularly when he was younger. Once there had been talk of his being transferred there, the time when Ira Taubman and Harry Poindexter decided to retire and the company worried they would lose contact with important clients on the East ...

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Reviews

BookBrowse

Olafsson's lean and compelling short stories are quite addictively good. I was tempted to recommend them during Valentines week but thought it best not to lest some unsuspecting soul rushed out to buy Valentines for their loved one without taking a closer look; the title is ironic, these stories are not of warm and nurturing relationships but of angst-ridden emotionally damaged people brought down by a moment of poor judgment in the past or present. Olafsson's style is dry with no excess of verbiage, but nevertheless rich in nuance.   (Reviewed by BookBrowse Review Team).

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Media Reviews
Kirkus Reviews

In the two skimpy tales that end the year, however, he seems to be running out of steam, perhaps a prisoner of his own format. The title of this collection is ironic; any love that flows here is wayward and all too perishable.

Publishers Weekly

Olafsson's Nordic realism à la Bergman holds a ghastly fascination.

Library Journal - Patrick Sullivan

While the title suggests romance and happy endings, very little here is cheerful. In fact, we see all manner of human weakness, recklessness, and desperation in the name of love. An ambitious, harrowing collection; highly recommended.

The Boston Globe - Barbara Fisher

His lovely, restrained stories are taut with suspense as they move inexorably toward a revelation. We know the peaceful complacency of a situation is about to smash; suddenly, years of vague feelings coalesce into a moment of clarity.

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Beyond the Book

Olaf Olafsson (full name Ólafur Jóhann Ólafsson) was born in Reykjavik, Iceland in 1962 and studied physics as a Wien Scholar at Brandeis University, Massachusetts, in the early 1980s.  He is the author of three novels and a collection of short stories; his work has been translated into at least 14 languages.

He is also Executive Vice President of Time Warner, responsible for the company's corporate strategy, mergers, acquisitions and investments. Prior to that, he was Vice Chairman of Time Warner Digital Media where he ...

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