Love by Hanne Ørstavik
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
For such a short work, this is a challenge to read. The story of a mother and son in the coldest time of year in the coldest region of Norway, the narrative moves between Vibeke and Jon, even though they are not in the same location as the story goes on. My reading process went something like read two-three paragraphs, then backtrack one to pick up the alternate character to figure out what is going on. I'm not sure I always understood where I was. Is this translation or in the original work? That is uncertain.
There are elements of deep foreboding and danger, but because of the strange (unique?) writing style, sometimes I couldn't tell if what I thought I was understanding were really going on. For instance at one point I'm pretty sure Jon is in the trailer? home? of a couple who are child sexual predators but then he's not kept there. And he gets in the car with a stranger.
Part of my other confusion is the beginning of the novel, when Jon is at home waiting for Vibeke to come home, I read him as an older man, possibly her father or someone she worked for as a nurse or aide, that I was pretty confused when I understood him to be eight.
There's a night circus (does this really happen in the cold or was this another imagined thing?) and Vibeke herself is making some bad choices by going off alone with what we here in the USA would negatively call a carny. She also ends up in possible danger, but her attitude doesn't make it seem so. She is smoking, and smiling, and seems up for whatever, forgetting that she has a child at home. So is this night a binging of singleness amidst the stress of parenting a child alone? Or is it something else entirely.
So I end the book completely unsure of what I read or what I got out of it. I didn't mind having to work hard, but I am not sure what the answers are.
Thanks to the publisher, the marvelous Archipelago Press, for providing early access to this title through Edelweiss. It is available 13 February 2018.
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