Let the Right One In by John Ajvide Lindqvist
by Lily Wren
Lindqvist has been compared to Stephen King which is a comparison not without merit as he matches King blow for blow with this story. In fact, Let the Right One In takes me back to my King reading youth which lies somewhere in the 1980’s and not far from the year in which this book is set (1981) .
I haven’t read a horror book for many years and, unusually for me, I bought this book after I had seen the Swedish film. I was taken by the simplicity, the atmosphere and horrific beauty of the film that I just had to get the book. I’d heard that the film had missed out much that was in the book (I am not surprised) and this left me curious. The book had been sitting on my shelf unread for the few couple of years and now I’m wondering why I had left it for so long.
“Let the right one slip in” by Morrissey (p.487)
Oskar is 12 years old and relentlessly bullied at school. He has no friends. Life is hard and he is anxious to the point of incontinence. His dream world consists of keeping a scrap-book of newspaper articles on murders and mass murderers and fantasising about fighting back and killing his bullies. He’s a good kid at heart but sad and angry at the cards life has dealt him, about being singled out and bullied and at himself and his inability to fight back. Things change when he meets Eli, his new neighbour and possible soul mate.
Eli is also 12 years old and quite eccentric. She has moved into the flat next door with her ‘father’ but all is not as it seems. After a chance meeting with Oskar one evening they start to develop a friendship. As this friendship develops so does Oskar’s strength and confidence in life. As the story develops so does his awareness around sex, sexuality and love, in particular the sense of confusion he feels when he thinks about Eli. This is certainly a ‘coming of age’ relationship for Oskar. This is also the case for Eli as she explores her feelings for Oskar, their friendship and especially her struggle in coming to terms with being a ’12 year old child’ having lived as a vampire for 200 years.
“I must be gone and live, or stay and die.
Yours, Eli” (p.283)
Around this developing unconventional relationship, Lindqvist creates an atmosphere that is typically Scandinavian. Cold, dark, simple and stylish with a quirky edge. Yes, Lindqvist uses a lot of words, taking his time to get to where we should be. Some readers may feel that an amount of what Lindqvist has written is superfluous. However, I believe everything to be an essential part of the story. Lindqvist takes his time, building characters and scenes that may not initially feel relevant to the reader but they will eventually come together to form vital parts to the story overall. Give it time. Once again, comparisons to Stephen King can be made. I remember reading ‘Christine’ when I was younger, wondering where the heck things were going. King got there eventually and it made the journey all the more worthwhile. It’s the same here with Let the Right One In and Lindqvist.
We get there….eventually.
Ultimately, this is a story of two lonely people coming together to form a friendship in a world in which they don’t fit. However, a
warning note to readers attracted to the more romantic and ethereal vampire story – Let the Right One In is not soft around the edges. It doesn’t mince its words and certainly does not romanticise the subject in any way. Whilst it sensitively explores the developing relationship between Eli and Oskar, it remains quite graphic and descriptive in detail. It’s gritty, dirty and, in some scenes, downright seedy. It’s certainly not a book for the faint hearted nor for those that like their vampires with a bit more romance and less blood and dirt. It’s definitely a book for those who like a horror story to hit them straight between the eyes and not allow them get up for a while afterwards.