Written by Lars Saabye Christensen
Number 2 in Byens Spor
Publisher: Cappelen Damm
Genre: Norwegian, Historical Fiction, Contemporary
Original Language: Norwegian
Read from 2018-09-12 to 2018-10-23
Read in Norwegian
Review: I loved this book. I really, really, loved it. This second Byens Spor took everything that was good about the first one, made it even better, and then added some kind of x-factor on top of that.
Beginning with something as fundamental as the language, the way the Norwegian language is used in this book is beautiful. I’ve often thought that the Norwegian language has some specific applications in fiction that it really shines when used in. For Jo Nesbø it becomes a tool for creating a dark, moody, atmosphere. For Erlend Loe and Ingvar Ambjørnsen the simplicity and the seemingly relative utilitarianism of the language is brilliant for taking the reader inside the heads of the characters. I’ve never seen Norwegian as a language that can stand up to English when it comes to using words in a way where the language itself is a strong point of any story. Whereas English can be, and often is, used in ways which makes me sit back and just marvel at the beauty of the language, I don’t really tend to get that with Norwegian. But that’s always been ok. That’s not what Norwegian is for, and that’s not what I look for in Norwegian books. In my mind Norwegian has other, perfectly valid and honourable, uses.
With this book Lars Saabye Christensen really proves me wrong. The language in this book is art in it’s own right. It seems like every other sentence has a turn of phrase which is so simple, yet so devilishly clever. He uses old, tired, words and expressions in ways in which I’ve never seen them used before. Several times I literally stopped reading to sit back in awe and take in the beauty of the language I had just read.
Anyway, that is the language, I should probably say something about the story as well…
The story is excellent. As with the first book, this book is incredibly immersive. The empathy I felt with the characters, and my emotional investment in them, was at a level well beyond what I usually experience with books, or any kind of medium for that matter. For me this book also packed a greater emotional punch than the first one, maybe because the nature of the events in the book were a bit more varied. I think I must have gone through the entire spectrum of emotions during the course of this book, from pure joy, joyful expectation and excitement, to sadness and despair. And the emotions somehow just happen along with the ebbs and flow of the story. There aren’t really any huge twists. There are several defining moments, yes, but much like in life the defining moments in this book tend to just happen along with the rest of the story, not as major events with several pages of build-up. The way in which you’re meant to feel about things isn’t telegraphed or imposed upon the reader. Through the strength of the story, the language, and the empathy the reader has with the characters, the emotive elements of the story just happen. All my guards just went down the moment I opened this book, and the story just jerked me around however it pleased. I trusted it to do so. And it never let me down.
That’s probably enough gushing from me about this book. Needless to say, to say that I’ll be eagerly waiting for the next book in the series would be a massive understatement.