Friday, January 20, 2017

Norway: Echoland, by Per Petterson

This slim book is told from the point of view of twelve year old Arvid, who has travelled from Norway with his family to stay with his maternal grandparents in Denmark for the summer. He is feeling awkward and confused. His slightly older friend, Mogens, is attracted to Arvid's older sister, Gry. There is tension, never fully explained, between his mother and his grandmother. This tension appears to be longstanding, relating to events before Arvid was born, when his mother returned from Norway urgently, alone and in trouble.

Arvid's complex feelings are depicted with tenderness and beauty, and the rest of the characters also seem to be well developed and realistic. The time period of the book is not explicitly stated, but it appears that Arvid may have been born around the late 1950s, which would date the book in the early seventies, although it was first published in Norway in 1989. Perhaps the author wrote of the time period when he himself was growing up.

Echoland is translated from Norwegian by Don Bartlett, and published by Harvill Secker (part of Penguin Random House) in 2016.

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