Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Book Review: "The Invoice" by Jonas Karlsson

How much would you pay for happiness, for special memories, for a reasonably pleasant life? Is a placid existence worth more than a turbulent, more passionate one?

In Jonas Karlsson's new book, The Invoice, the unnamed main character lives a simple life. He's a film buff, working part-time in a video store in Sweden, where he likes to talk to people about movies, although he rarely gets the chance. He has a few friends whom he sees periodically, but since a relationship ended some time ago, he has no one special in his life. Mostly his nights include re-watching his favorite movies, and enjoying pizza and/or ice cream. It's not an exciting life, but even though he doesn't have much money or promising career prospects, he's not unhappy.

One day he receives an invoice from an unknown national company. The invoice is for an amount of money he cannot even fathom, and it doesn't explain why he suddenly owes this money. He soon finds that he's turned a blind eye to something that's happening in Sweden—people are literally being billed for the expense of their lives, differing amounts based on events that have occurred throughout their lives, how happy they have been, etc. But what he cannot understand is how can someone with not much to show for himself owe the largest amount of money in the country?

This is a charming little fable of sorts, which raises some interesting issues about happiness and how people perceive our lives differently than we do. Are happy moments better than those which cause us to feel strong emotions? Should we really be financially responsible for how our lives turn out emotionally?

I thought this was a sweet book, but it never really engendered a great deal of excitement for me. (Which, perhaps in light of this book isn't a bad thing?) I kept expecting something big to happen, and although there were some lovely small moments, it just didn't wow me as much as I thought. But the main character is appealing in a sweet, befuddled way, and I thought parts of the book really were charming. An interesting idea to think about.

NetGalley, Crown Publishing, and Blogging for Books provided me an advance copy of the book in exchange for an unbiased review. Thanks for making this available!

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