If, like me, you have a lot of trouble finding books with kick-ass female protagonists, I’m currently re-reading Nicola Griffith’s crime thriller The Blue Place, and damn, I’d almost forgotten how good it is. If you don’t mind that about two thirds of the way through, there’s a short Norway travelogue, you’ll love it.
How’s this for an opening:
“An April night in Atlanta between thunderstoms: dark and warm and wet, sidewalks shiny with rain and slick with torn leaves and fallen azalea blossoms. Nearly midnight. I had been walking for over an hour, covering four or five miles. I wasn’t tired. I wasn’t sleepy.
You would think that my bad dreams would be of the first man I had killed, thirteen years ago. Or if not him, then maybe the teenager who had burned to death in front of me because I was to slow to get the man with the match. But no, when I turn out the lights at ten o’clock and can’t keep still, can’t even bear to sit down in my Lake Claire house, it’s because I see again the first body I hadn’t killed.”
And you might learn a few things, too:
“It’s the simplest thing. If you walk tight around a corner, you can be surprised by anyone who is waiting on the other side. It’s like sitting with your back to the door, like chambering a round and leaving the safety off, wearing a dress that will restrict your legs, or walking with your hands in your pockets: stupid. But so many people do it. Every now and again I go into a school to teach self-defence classes to young women. I ask: How many of you know which way to look before crossing a busy street? and every single hand will go up. So then I ask: Who knows the fire drill? And most of the hands stay up. Even if I ask who knows CPR, or what to do if you smell gas, there are a lot of hands. But if I ask how many know how to walk around a corner properly – or escape a stranglehold, or find out if the man behind you really is following you – they lower their hands in confusion. Yet these are all sensible precautions. It’s just that women are taught not to think about the danger they are often in, or how to prevent it. We’re taught to feel fear, but not what to do about it.”
Great stuff, there. Particularly that last line.