Sunday, 4 December 2011

A Summer of Drowning

Title: A Summer of Drowning

Author: John Burnside

Number of pages: 336

Started: 28 November 2011

Finished: 4 December 2011

Opening words:

Late in May 2001, about ten days after I saw him for the last time, Mats Sigfridsson was hauled out of Malangen Sound, a few miles down the coast from here. They say he must have gone into the water at Skognes, then drifted back down to the pier near Straumsbukta, not far from where we lived – and I like to think that the sea took pity on the puny child it had killed, and was in the process of carrying him home, when a fisherman caught sight of that distinctive, almost white shock of hair through the summer gloaming and, with due car and sadness and habitual skill, fetched him to shore. Later, they found a boat drifting in the Sound, halfway between Kvaloya and the shipping channel where the great cruise and cargo vessels from Tromso glide out into the open sea.

Plot summary:

Painter Angelika Rossdal suddenly moves to Kvaloya, a small island deep in the
Arctic Circle, with her young daughter, Liv, who grows up isolated and unable or unwilling to make friends her own age. Spending much of her time alone, or with an elderly neighbour, Liv is beguiled with old folk tales and stories about trolls, mermaids and the huldra, a wild spirit who appears in the form of an irresistibly beautiful girl, to lure young men to their doom. Now 28, Liv looks back on her life and to that summer when two boys drowned under mysterious circumstances off the shores of Kvaloya. As the summer continues and events take an even darker turn, Liv comes to believe that something supernatural is happening on the island. But is it?

What I thought:

I really enjoyed this book. Set within the Arctic Circle, it looked back at strange occurrences during mid-Summer ten years before. It was a well written story and it really felt as though you were within the narrator’s thoughts. I found the words just flowed off the page and it was a pleasure to read, despite the rather dark undertones.

There was an ambiguity about the reasons behind what took place and it was a book that at times you had to consider, momentarily, why things had happened in order to get the most of the novel, but it was a book that was well worth the “effort”.

This was another of the Costa shortlist. I hope it wins.

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