Written by Lars Saabye Christensen
Number 1 in Byens Spor
Publisher: Cappelen Damm
Genre: Norwegian, Family
Original Language: Norwegian
Read from 2018-06-13 to 2018-07-15
Read in Norwegian
Review: Byens Spor is a bit of a slow burn, but once the flame catches it burns as bright as anyone could ask it to.
This isn’t a story about something in particular. It’s a window into post-war Oslo and the lives of some of the people living in it. We follow a handful of characters through their everyday lives. The ups the downs, the mundane, and the extraordinary.
At the start of the book, it’s easy to turn against it. The amount of literary embellishments and unnecessary detail interrupting the story seems almost ridiculously self-indulgent, but as the story progresses it all starts to make sense. The book isn’t trying to tell you what happened - it’s giving you an opportunity to feel what happened. And it works. I imagine the experience of this book will vary wildly from reader to reader, but I’ve lived in Oslo for long enough that the constant references to street-names, places, and the extraneous details about pretty much everything made me picture what the streets might have been like, what it might have felt like to walk down them, and what the characters in the book might have experienced as they did so. And once I got dragged into the setting of the story, it just flowed along. Whether it be birth, death, friendship, love, or a family just eating breakfast. I felt like I was there in post-war Oslo, just witnessing the lives of these characters.
On that note, it almost feels inappropriate to even write anything about whether the characters felt believable, whether I felt they were plausible and well fleshed out. Of course they were! How could they not have been? I was right there with them… Or at least I felt like I was. The book really drew me in that much.
That said, as much as the book drew me in, it really didn’t engage me. I’m not blaming it for not doing so, that would be like blaming a cup of Earl Grey for not being spicy enough, but it’s not the kind of book that will make you sit on the edge of your seat in anticipation of what will happen next. But it will make you care about what’s happening in the moment you’re reading about. And it will make you want to experience more of those moments.
I really liked this book. I wouldn’t argue against anyone who claims that it’s slow, plodding, and packed with self-indulgent nostalgic flourishes. Because it is. And it’s supposed to be. And I really liked it.