I’m not such a big fan of this kind of book, where a stoical narrator tells you in simple declarative sentences about the terrible things that have happened to him. (It’s a very male voice.) My friend Meg, whose taste is excellent, loaned this to me so I stuck it out. And besides, if I’m really going to emulate a book group, I have to read random selections, right? And finish them.
Our narrator, Trond, starts telling his story as an isolated man of 67 in a tiny community in rural Norway. He flashes back to a crucial summer in his life — oh, dear, another coming-of-age story. What’s good: he vividly evokes the experience of a fifteen-year-old boy. In fact throughout, Petterson is very deliberate about describing the sensory experiences of his character. But I should have known from the first three sentences: “Early November. It’s nine o’clock. The titmice are banging against the window.”
Even when the plot broadens to encompass Nazis and adultery and the horrific death of a child, that measured objective tone persists. I guess I want more flash. I guess I don’t care much about male coming-of-age stories. And I don’t care at all about titmice.