Bokrecension: The Hundred and Ninety-Nine Steps av Michel Faber

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Sin has joined an archaeological dig at the British Whitby abbey as an escape from her past. In need to forget about a long lost love and to put her mind of an accident she had a couple of years ago in Bosnia, she buries herself in the history of the abbey and Saint Hilda. But from the very first night at the hotel she’s staying, she suffers from nightmares in which she always meets a grisly end. It’s always a man with unusually large hands holding her, touching her and softly whispers that he loves her. But in the end he draws a huge knife and cuts her throat, all the way to her spinal course.

One morning, while Sin is climbing the hundred and ninety- nine steps up to the old abbey, she meets Magnus. A medical student, living in his recently deceased fathers house while he is writing a research paper for his final year. His fathers didn’t only left him the house but also a Finnish Lapphund, Hadrian. Sin immediately falls in love with the dog and gets his owner into the bargain.
Magnus, mostly called Mack, and Sin seems to be entirely different from each other and often disagree with each other. But despite their many encounters, you can’t miss the attraction between them. And it’s Mack who leads her into the mystery of an old, unsolved murder.

In this quote, Sin and Mack are discussing the dig at the old Whitby Abbey:
“‘And these people you’ve dug up – who where they?’
A single word, Angles, sprang to Sins mind, which made her feel a pang of guilty sorrow. How ruthless History was, taking as raw material the fiercely independent lives of sixty human individuals – sixty souls who, in life, fought for their right to be appreciated as unique, to earn the pride of their parents, the gratitude of their children, the loyalty of their colleagues – blending them all into the dirt, reducing them to a single archaic word.
‘They were… Angles, probably,’ she sighed. ‘Difficult to be sure. Until we do Carbon-14 dating on them. They lived after the Romans, anyway, and before the Norman Conquest.’
‘Any treasures?’
‘Gold, precious jewels… Bracelets and swords that can be buffed up to a sheen for the English Heritage brochures…’
Sin was determined not to be goaded by his tone. Be firm with him, she counseled herself. Firm but dignified.
‘These people were early Christians,’ she reminded him. ‘They didn’t believe in taking anything with them when they died. You know: “naked came I into the world, and naked-“’
‘Ha!’ he scoffed, hoisting up a stiff index finger in a theatrical gesture of triumph. ‘I’ve read up on this stuff now, don’t forget! What about all those fancy trinkets they dug up in the 1920s, eh? Brooches, rings and whatever? Saint Hilda’s nuns were rolling in it, weren’t they?’
Sin leaned down, scorning to look at him, but instead stroking Hadrian tenderly. She spoke directly into the dog’s furry, trusting face, as if she’d decided there was a great deal more point talking to Hadrian than to his master. ‘People nowadays would love to believe the nuns were as corrupt as Hell,’ she murmured. ‘Did you know that, Hadrian?’ She ruffled his ears, and nodded emphatically as though the shameless cynicism of humans was likely to beggar the belief of an innocent canine. ‘It makes people feel smug, you see. Gives them a warm glow, to think of those religious idealists betraying their vows of poverty and swanning around in fancy gowns and jewellery.’”

I think that Sin is in her thirty’s, maybe younger, and in person she seems bitter. Like she’s been trough allot. You often get hints that it has something with her past to do and further into the book, you get to know. When she meets handsome Mack, she tells herself more than one time that she’s there to work and nothing else. To have a crush on somebody seems to scare her.
Magnus on the other hand is young and appears slightly arrogant at times. Or maybe he’s just clumsy. Joking about wrong things with the wrong person. No question he’s sharp and really means well, he’s really trying, but I believe clumsy is the word.

I think that the book is about Sin and an event that changes her life. That drags her up on her feet and helps her to break free from her overburden past. To just let it go.
She has been in the same place in her life for so long and deep inside she haven’t got the courage to move on.

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