the Little Red Reviewer

Jagannath by Karin Tidbeck

Posted on: February 25, 2013

Jagganath-ebook-coverJagannath, by Karin Tidbeck

published in 2012

where I got it: the library








This has been a tough review to write. I finished reading Karin Tidbeck’s Jagannath last week, and instead of jotting down notes for a review, or trying to come up with some witty blurbable phrase, all I’ve done is pick the book up again and again, reread a few of the short stories, and whisper “Wow”, over and over again.

Just, wow.

I am floored, I am awed, my faith in anything, in everything, has been restored.

Make sure you read Jagannath.

Jagannath is a skinny unassuming little thing. It’s the wallflower of the new shelf at the library, no fancy cosmetics or political slants or controversial stories. It doesn’t scream “read me with alluring or sexy cover art.  And it doesn’t scream “read me” after you open it, either. Sometimes you don’t want a book to scream at you, because it’s better when the book caresses you instead,  rewards you for finding it, for choosing the wallflower.  With a quiet, confident voice, the stories in Jagannath whisper your name, drawing you in closer and nearer, because it has a secret to tell you, and only you.

Using simple language, Tidbeck takes you to other worlds, places that are beautiful and frightening and cold.  These aren’t horror stories, but they are tilted at just enough of an angle that it’s easy to lose your footing. Reading them felt like a one way mirror –  I was on the  mirror side, but someone else, someone in the story, was watching me from the other side.

You don’t even need to read the rest of this rambling review, just go get the book. You will be far more satisfied with reading Jagannath than with reading my review of its contents.

On average, the stories are only about 10 pages, so Tidbeck gets to the meat right away – which means you know right away something strange and perfect and possibly very disturbing is going to happen the moment you turn the page. Many of them are told in first person, sometimes with a nameless narrator, and often the stories have a feeling of isolation, of taking place in a vacuum. Not a single story was a disappointment, I simply can not choose a favorite. Although I’ll be happy to read the entire thing again if you think it will help me choose.

About half the stories were previously unpublished in English, and if I’ve read the rules right, that means they are eligible to be nominated for Hugos.

Because I love to hear the sound of my own voice, here’s some words that don’t come close to describing the pure amazing contained in these pages:

Beatrice – Franz Hiller falls in deeply in love with an airship named Beatrice, and Anna Goldberg falls deeply in love with a steam engine named Hercules. For a while, the four of them are a happy and strange family.  Anna’s young daughter is able to speak to humans and machines, and Franz learns a horrible truth about his relationship with Beatrice.

Rebecka – Sara’s best friend Rebecka is suicidal, but she never succeeds. Rebeka does awful things, trying to get God’s attention, hoping for answers, punishment, anything. Trying to kill herself doesn’t seem to be working, to Rebeka will have to resort to drastic measures.

Cloudberry Jam – so short, but so effective. A lonely woman gestates a child, of sorts. She raises the sort-of child, teaches i t to talk and read.  But mother and child always want different things for and from each other. One wants love, the other wants freedom, one wants security, the other wants be loved no matter what. We can’t live vicariously through our children without hurting them.  I may have read things into this story that weren’t actually there.

Augusta Prima – There are many reasons time doesn’t pass in Fairyland. No one gets old, the sun never sets, parties and games are always afoot, and besides, there are no watches or clocks, no concepts of days or minutes, or the stresses that so often go along side. Life is here is different; it is violent and impulsive and disturbingly passionate and terrifyingly addictive. A world without time becomes a world without memory. Augusta finds something she shouldn’t, something that doesn’t belong in her world. If only she could remember what it was, and learn how it works.

Aunts – In the orangery of Augusta Prima’s world, live the Aunts.  Corpulent, torpid, and always growing, the unchanging Aunts are constantly fed by their heirs, the nieces. Silent and starving, the nieces bide their time until they receive their inheritance.

If you are a fan of the weird (and you’ll know you are because right now you are saying “wow, this sounds cool!” instead of “ummm, this sounds weird and I don’t think I like it”), Jagannath is for you.  Go read it, and when Tidbeck wins all sorts of awards you’ll know who she is.


13 Responses to "Jagannath by Karin Tidbeck"

Hmmm…I’m thinking you wanted to hug this book, yes? I loves me a book that makes me want to hug it!


more like I want to gently pet it and nurse it back to health like some traumatized kitten from the Humane Society. I’m afraid if I hug it I’ll metaphorically damage something in there. Damn it was incredible, just, Damn.


Heh, thought you’d like this. It is phenomenal, isn’t it?


phenom, that is the word for Tidbeck! and Yes, I nearly finished it in one sitting.


I loved this work


such an amazing collection, I need her to write a ton more so I can love it.


I’ve read a little over half of it and am loving it. It is different than much of what I usually read and I am enjoying taking it in smaller chunks and making it last. I’ve seen a lot of praise for the collection and it is richly deserved. So glad the cover was on my favorites list for the year as it lead me to picking it up in the first place.


Well, as I’m trying shorter stories out at the moment and, as you seem to adore this – then I should perhaps get me a copy.
Lynn 😀


I noticed this book a while back because of all the things in the antlers. Kind of made me think of hanging ornaments on a living, walking bit of nature. But now with this awesome review, I am going to have to put it on my sooner-rather-than-later reading list.


If you, kamo, and Carl all agree on this, I’d better get a copy. That’s a pretty wide spectrum of fans.


Finished the book this morning on the bus. Now I have to digest it enough to write something about it. Hmm….


tweet me when your review is up, I want to talk about this one. It does take some time to digest, doesn’t it? which was your favorite story?


[…] Jagannath by Karin Tidbeck (2012) – an unassuming short story collection that blew me out of the water.  On the surface, this seems like such a simple collection – not much in the way of fifty cent words, no obvious literary tricks.  But this is one creepy wallflower that will stick with you. […]


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some of the books reviewed here were free ARCs supplied by publishers/authors/other groups. Some of the books here I got from the library. the rest I *gasp!* actually paid for. I'll do my best to let you know what's what.
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