I Always Find You by John Ajvide Lindqvist

I alwaysI Always Find You is such a strange book to review.  It evoked so many emotions as I was reading it that my thoughts are a hot jumbled mess and to be totally frank I’m not convinced even at this point, that I enjoyed it. In fact, it’s not a book that you enjoy – absolutely not – it’s more like a book that compels you to read on even if you feel horrified, creeped out or just downright repulsed.  You simply have to read on.  It’s like a hideous trainwreck that you can’t tear your eyes away from.  Anyway… I’ve cut and paste the blurb for the book below – I don’t think I’ll attempt to outline the plot but more explore my feelings and thoughts.  So:

‘In September 1985, nineteen-year-old John Lindqvist moves into a dilapidated old building in Stockholm, planning to make his living as a magician. Something strange is going on in the building’s basement – and the price of entry is just a little blood.

I Always Find You is a horror story – as bizarre and macabre as any of Lindqvist’s bestselling novels. It’s also a book about being young and lonely, about making friends and growing up. It’s about magic, and the intensity of human connection – and a society’s communal responsibility for a devastating act of political violence.’

This is undoubtedly going to be a splurge of ideas and emotions so bear with me.

The story starts out like an exploration of loneliness.  JL rents an apartment that is little more than a concrete box.  He is living in complete dire straits with very little money.  He doesn’t know anybody and dreams of becoming a magician and finding his fortunes that way.  He’s a difficult character to like in some respects, or, at least he’s a character that you find yourself going from feeling sympathy for to eventually kind of disliking as his actions spiral out of control, and yet in spite of that I still did want to be on his side.  He feels like his actions have gotten away from him somehow but there’s still goodness inside – it’s just been poisoned a little by events.  Strangely enough, the other residents seem to be living similarly lonely existences.  Lots of lonely people, locked away in their little concrete boxes, isolated and unhappy – all mixed in with a period of political unrest when people feel cheated somehow.  At the same time we are given a back story from JL’s childhood in which he meets a young boy.  I’m not going to give anything away here because I found this story really creepy and so think you should read it without any prior knowledge.  Whilst this element feels oddly disconnected at first this isn’t the case and both stories are in fact related.

The first thing that really stood out for me was a feeling of confusion.  Is any of this actually based on real events?  Don’t get me wrong – I’m not talking about the horror elements because those definitely come from the land of fiction – at least I hope they do!  But, and this is why I had the confusion, there are elements of this story where you can really see the inspiration for the other JL stories.  Clearly this is an author with a very vivid imagination and an ability to take the simplest of things and create a horror scene – for example the ‘tunnel’ that is featured in the book.  It feels insidiously creepy and it’s the sort of place that most people would feel wary of. It’s a great example of letting your imagination run riot.  But then there’s elements of the story such as the loneliness, the unhappiness the failed relationship, the stealing, etc – are these also imaginary.  I would say that some of these are real experiences and they’re mixed into the story in such a realistic way that the result makes it impossible to separate fact from fiction – hence confusion.

Then there’s the other residents.  All of them eventually congregate around the shower block/washroom where something decidedly odd is taking place.  The horror element here is a strange creeping weirdness.  Something that is paid for in blood and that takes people into what becomes known as the ‘other’.  The ‘other’ feels like a bizarre space where people’s imagination runs riot, their inhibitions are squashed and it’s almost like they become a massive exaggeration of themselves somehow.  More than that though it becomes an obsession for all of them, and obsessions are never a good thing.  Those obsessions eventually leads to a general feeling of apathy with real life compared to the escapism and freedom felt when transported to the ‘other’.  Now imagine the desperation when it seems like the ‘other’ is starting to disappear.  Can you go back to normality having experienced this life with no shackles.  No need for politeness.  If you’re a monster then you’re a monster, no explanation necessary – but having released your inner beast can you really put it back again and return to normality?

I sort of wish I’d made more notes now as I was reading because parts of this felt like the personas that the characters take on when in the ‘other’ are a representation of the seven deadly sins.  Gluttony and lust definitely seem to be represented but I’m not so sure about the others.  That’s another of my random thoughts that I just wanted to chuck into the mix.

Then there’s the writing style.  There’s a cold simplicity to the writing, a lack of embellishment and a simple ‘truth’ to it that somehow exacerbates the horror elements.  I distinctly recall at one part of the book being really scared.  I couldn’t stop reading, in fact I was almost afraid to put the book down because I wanted to keep moving forward to see if I could get past the scary elements and find a happier place to latch onto.  At that particular point I thought this was perhaps the scariest thing I’d ever read.  But then the story did move on.  The creep factor seemed to decrease whilst the ick factor increased and I then had a very strong feeling of discomfort.  Some of the scenes are difficult to read about without doubt.  There’s an element of the story that feels like voyeurism and I think I can safely say that if you’re in the least bit squeamish then this will not be the book for you.  Now, obviously I don’t want to over egg the pudding here.  I’m sure there are staunch horror fans out there who will doubtless find this a walk in the park and will wonder what I’m chatting  about – but for me, the strongest feelings that came across during this read were fear followed by discomfort all tied into a story that I couldn’t put down.

I don’t know what else to say really.  Should you read this – not if you’re easily disturbed or don’t want nightmares.  If you’ve read the author before then I think yes.  Particularly, if you’ve read Let the Right One in or I Am Behind You because I think you’ll be able to see the connections.

I’m definitely not sorry I read this.  I’m not sure that I totally understand it.  And, in case I’ve not been clear above, this is a disturbing book and certainly not a popcorn read.  With those provisos in mind don’t say you haven’t been warned.  Pick it up if you dare.

I received a copy through Netgalley, courtesy of the publisher, for which my thanks.  The above is my own opinion.

 

 

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15 Responses to “I Always Find You by John Ajvide Lindqvist”

  1. Barb (boxermommyreads)

    I bought a copy of this book from overseas and never read it. Now I think I need to dig it out because I’m intrigued…and kind of confused. Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

    • @lynnsbooks

      Haha – yes, I think JL writes books where you come away from reading thinking wtf did I just read – and yet you’re glad you read it. Weird.
      Lynn 😀

  2. Tammy

    Wow, this sounds so strange! I will definitely check it out at some point, since I’m a big fan of the author. I think your review convinced me!

    • @lynnsbooks

      It’s definitely a disturbing book but I liked that it linked in to I am Behind You – did you read that one?
      Lynn 😀

  3. Carolina Carvalho

    Great review! This book is on my tbr because I loved Let the right one in, it wasn’t as scary as I hoped but the plot and characters more than made up for it. This one tough sounds proper terrifying and I can’t wait to read it.

    • @lynnsbooks

      I definitely found it creepy and disturbing – but then I’m a little bit wimpy and only occasionally read horror.
      Lynn 😀

  4. maddalena@spaceandsorcery

    “Pick it up if you dare”
    While it would be almost impossible for me to resist such a challenge 😉 I am very aware of your warnings: I am neither squeamish nor easily terrified, but from your review I derived this strong sense of unpleasantness that curbs my curiosity.
    I will need to think about it…
    Thanks for sharing!

    • @lynnsbooks

      Yeah, this is nothing if not unsettling. Not for everyone but I read the previous book and I liked the links – but, if you’re picking this up I think it helps to be aware that there are definitely some parts that make for unpleasant reading. Which sounds strangely contradictory because I’m not sorry to have read it.
      Lynn 😀

  5. Cathy746books

    I actually think this sounds brilliant! I enjoyed Let the Right One In so should enjoy this too.

    • @lynnsbooks

      I hope you like it – it’s definitely a bit unsettling but I enjoyed the places where you can see the inspiration for Let the Right One In.
      Lynn 😀

  6. waytoofantasy

    Sounds kind of interesting. Not sure if it’s my cup of tea but I definitely appreciated reading your thoughts on it. 🙂

    • @lynnsbooks

      It’s very unusual, creepy, unsettling and just plain old odd – but I’m glad I read it – I have read his first book set in the ‘other’ so I liked the connection.
      Lynn 😀

  7. Mogsy @ BiblioSanctum

    Oh wow, hmm. Now I’m not sure what to make of this one. On the one hand, it makes me excited that you think it’s disturbing because I live for those kinds of books! On the other hand, I’m kind of…I don’t know…worried? Not about having nightmares, but about the feeling of confusion and not being able to understand. This is a real conundrum for me, gotta think about this one a bit more!

    • @lynnsbooks

      Yeah I don’t this will be for everyone. It’s quite unsettling and I’m not sure I really understood everything that was taking place. I liked it though, on a strange level and it really links in to his previous book that also took place in the ‘other’.
      Lynn 😀

  8. September : My Month in Review | Books and travelling with Lynn

    […] I Always Find You by John Ajvide Lindqvist […]

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