An early morning adventure out stealing horses leaves Trond confused when is friend Jon suffers a sudden breakdown. Behind this scene, he will discover, lies a personal tragedy: the first incident in the gradual destruction of the two boys’ families.
As an old man, living in an isolated part of Norway, Trond chances upon a character from that fateful summer who stirs up painful memories and forces him to look back at his past.
There are certain books that I just know I will love even before I read them and so having picked this one up recently, it went to the top of the pile. I am happy to report that my nose for a good book (and this one does smell overwhelmingly intoxicating as a bonus) is still living up to its self imposed reputation.
There is a sparse melancholy feeling that I seem to associate with Scandinavia that permeates this elegantly crafted story, one that is astutely constructed to slowly tease out the lives, revelations and the relationships of the characters. The mirroring of the readers perceptions with that of Trond’s who is slowly seeing his world change about him is cleverly done, his feeling of being on the edge of the mysteries of adulthood, knowing and not yet knowing simultaneously, coupled with his brutally honest thoughts are powerful and he becomes an instantly likeable if flawed character..
Trond’s narration can seem curiously detached from the past events as he remembers the fateful summer of 1948, almost like he is the voice over on a nature programme, studying some other life. His style is arresting, it goes between cold and emotionless in parts whilst at others he expresses insight and feelings of happiness and nostalgia that draws the reader into the lives of all the Characters and their beautiful forest setting.
Although I greedily devoured this book over the course of two sittings, I never felt like I was reading to quickly, the story feels like it applied a break to my covetous eyes. It takes its time and meanders between past and present and I felt like I had lived a lot of time in their world. The sparse feeling is actually a very clever subterfuge for a busy book, there is plenty of depth of thought just below the surface with the narrators changing impressions, the transition of states and so on through to the cyclical nature of things and of life, the rhythm that binds us to nature.
We smelled the horse droppings and the wet boggy moss and the sweet, sharp, all-pervading odour of something greater than ourselves and beyond our comprehension…
There are inevitably endings to everything and upon closing this book not 20 minutes ago, I found that I appreciated the things left unsaid almost as much as the story itself. Those avenues of thought upon characters, of paths we/they may choose are – for me at any rate – sparking many engrossing thoughts, musing on the open ends of a book is indeed a noble pursuit. Throughout reading I was happy to note that there is no descent into saccharine sentimentality, just a thoroughly good read for those who live literature and life.