Summary and book reviews of Doghead by Morten Ramsland

Doghead

A Novel

By Morten Ramsland

Doghead
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  • Hardcover: Feb 2009,
    384 pages.
    Paperback: Jul 2010,
    384 pages.

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Book Summary

An international sensation sold in seventeen countries around the world, Doghead has critics across the globe declaring, “brilliant,” “magnificent,” “powerful and engaging.” “When I read it I had to pinch my arm to see if I was dreaming,” says Weekendavisen (Denmark). “It was really that good.” Morten Ramsland won Author of the Year and Book of the Year for Doghead in Denmark, and critical comparisons include Gunter Grass, Jonathan Franzen, Peter Høeg and Gabriel Garcia Marquez—everyone agrees that here is a world-class writer.

In Doghead, Ramsland treats U.S. readers to a highly imaginative, exuberant saga that follows three generations of a wildly dysfunctional Norwegian family. The tale begins as Asger, the narrator, visits his dying grandma, who has a few corrections to make to certain family stories. Asger learns that contrary to popular belief, Grandpa was not a war hero. Instead, his nickname was "Crackpot," and both before and after he escaped from a Nazi concentration camp, he was to put it bluntly, a cheat and a liar.

A Plain in Eastern Germany –

5 March 1944

SOMEWHERE IN EASTERN Germany, my grandfather Askild is running across an open plain. The Germans are after him, and he has lost one of his shoes; it’s freezing. The half moon casts a pale glow over the landscape, transforming it into a ploughed field with frozen soldiers partly buried in mud. Less than three hours ago my grandfather said goodbye to his friend Herman Hemning. By running in opposite directions, they were trying to trick their pursuers into focusing on only one of the two tracks. My father has not yet been born. My grandmother Bjørk, who had arrived too late at the prison in Oslo and therefore never got to say goodbye, is not yet married to Grandpa Askild. Officially they’re not even engaged. So my whole existence is hanging by a thread.

Askild pulls out pieces of bone that have been rubbed with rat poison and scatters them on the ground. A minute passes, two minutes. He stops to ...

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Reviews

BookBrowse

While Ramsland has received comparisons to John Irving and other writers lauded for using magical realism within the context of a family saga, his writing most aptly conjures an anarchic, more salacious version of Astrid Lindgren, the Swedish author best known for creating Pippi Longstocking.   (Reviewed by Marnie Colton).

Full Review Members Only (1133 words).

Media Reviews
Weekendavisen (Denmark)

A brilliant magical realist family saga. Better than Peter Høeg.

Stern (Germany)

A book reminiscent of Grass' The Tin Drum in its humor and Angela's Ashes in its heartfelt affection…the family novel par excellence.

Independent on Sunday (UK), Books of the Year.

A huge international success…combines rambunctiousness, salty humor and poetic imagination.

Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Ramsland masterfully captures a zigzagging litany of recollections across generations and the cold North Sea, revealing the family's true fortune: survival in the space between deep dysfunction and enduring love.

Kirkus Reviews

The fact that it may have been fueled by psychedelic mushrooms does not subtract from its truth value. An earthy, funny, unflinching family history.

Booklist

Starred Review. The characters and their stories will stay with thoughtful readers, and many may even find resonances to their own lives.

Library Journal

Starred Review. Enthusiastically recommended for public libraries.

New York Times - Clare Clark

Although the final pages suggest that Ramsland might allow a degree of redemption for those characters who remain onstage, it comes too late to alter the perception of a book that, while enthusiastically engaging with the coarser aspects.

Entertainment Weekly - Kate Ward

Though intricate shifts in time make for a complex read, Doghead — which has plenty of bite — is definitely worth the effort. Rated: A–

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Beyond the Book

Cubism (c. 1907 - 1921)
Asger inherits his love of art from Grandpa Askild, who paints in the Cubist style pioneered by artists like Pablo Picasso, Georges Braque, and Juan Gris, influenced by Paul Cezanne's later work. Although some art historians now credit the lesser-known Braque with creating the first Cubist paintings, Picasso's Les Demoiselles d'Avignon, painted in 1907, was long considered Cubism's precursor, and the beginning of modern art. Though it wasn't exhibited until 1914, it wrestles with ideas that would become central to the Cubist movement -- "the most important and influential single innovation in the early history of modern art," according to historian Simon Wilson.

pictureLes Demoiselles...

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