Wednesday, May 9, 2007

The Solitaire Mystery by Jostein Gaarder

ISBN: 1 85799 733 6

Paperback Edition published in 1996 by Phoenix, division of Orion Books Ltd.

The Solitaire Mystery by Jostein Gaarder, is an interesting and modern fairy tale that pleases young and adults readers alike.

Twelve-year-old Hans Thomas lives alone with his father, a man who likes to give his son lessons about Life and has a penchant for philosophy. Hans Thomas' mother left them both when he was four to `find' herself and the story begins when father and son set off on a trip to Greece, where she now lives, to try to persuade her to come home. En route, in Switzerland, a dwarf at a petrol station gives Hans Thomas a magnifying glass and the next day he finds a tiny book inside a sticky bun, which can only be read with a magnifying glass. Hans Thomas reads the sticky-bun book in the back of his father's car on the way from Norway to the philosopher's homeland using the magnifying glass the dwarf gave him. Hans plays solitaire also with the pack of cards his father bought to obtain the joker. He finishes the sticky-bun book in Greece. By then Hans Thomas knows more about the philosophers, his own family and the mystery contained in the tiny book that binds everything together.

There are two flows in the story -- now and the past. In the journey to Greece, where 12-year-old Han's mother is, the little boy discovers the origin and the story of his family. The story of the book reveals itself fundamental to Hans-Thomas understanding of the trip and of his own life.

How did the book come to be there? Why does the dwarf keep showing up? What is the significance of the playing cards, most of all, the Joker? It is all very bewildering and Hans Thomas has enough to cope along with the overwhelming prospect of seeing his mother. Now his journey has turned into an encounter with the mysterious or does it all have a logical explanation?

Jostein Gaarder explores all these along with those questions, which have fascinated philosophers through the ages, using a child's journey through reality and mystery to create a world within a world, a story within a story, allowing the listener to form his or her own answers.

A fascinating adventure, unifying the threads of philosophy, fantasy and reality.