We’ve been a little quiet on the book front of late as our chief literary content creator Marc counts down the days to his now rapidly approaching November wedding. However, don’t fear, here are four of his recent highly recommended Nordic Reads…and to mix it up a bit they’re not all crime!
Night Shadows – Eva Björg Ægisdóttir
All of us at Nordic Watchlist are HUGE fans of Eva Björg’s writing and her latest release, Night Shadows, certainly didn’t disappoint. The third in her Forbidden Iceland series is just as impressive as the first two. This time, detective Elma faces arguably her toughest challenge to date as she investigates the death of a young boy, Marino, in a mysterious but deliberately started Akranes house fire.
It’s small-town crime at its best and proof, if we still needed it, that things aren’t always as rosy inside as they might appear from the outside. There are twists aplenty aided by a whole host of suspicious characters all with potential motives or giving the impression that they have something to hide. Undoubtedly one of our favourite books of the year to date. Bring on book four!
Grown Ups – Marie Aubert
The first of the non-crime recommendations in this list comes from Norwegian author Marie Aubert. Good Reads describes it as, ‘exhilarating, funny and unexpectedly devastating’ and that is an incredibly accurate oversight. The book, which at just 160 pages, makes for an excellent one sitting read, follows Ida, a forty-year-old single architect wrestling with whether she a) wants to have children, b) how to go about that given her age and relationship status and c) if she did, whether she’d be a good mother.
All comes to the forefront when on a family trip to their cabin, a cabin Ida and her family have all visited for years, her sister announces she’s pregnant with her first child. Aubert superbly tackles and expertly navigates what is a very sensitive topic, all set against the backdrop of an idyllic Norwegian cabin. A different but highly recommended read.
The Year of the Hare – Arto Paasilinna
This book was first recommended to us by Duncan at Nordisk Books (go check them out!) who, and I quote, “defied anyone who reads it to not want to drop everything and wander off into the Finnish woods”. After reading, we don’t disagree with that assessment. First published in 1975, ‘The Year of The Hare’ tells the story of Kaarlo Vatanen, a frustrated journalist, who, after nearly killing a hare with his car, turns his back on an unhappy and unfulfilling life.
He leaves his job, his wife and the city of Helsinki and instead seeks out the freedom of the Finnish countryside, forest and wilderness. At all times he is accompanied by the hare which he, with some help along the way, has nursed back to health. What follows is a year of adventure, mishap and, at times, luck as Vatanen travels throughout Finland, sometimes by choice and sometimes by necessity! For me this is the perfect read to kick off your autumn. The scenery is described with such perfection that you can’t help but let your mind wander off. It really is a beautifully written book.
The Commandments – Óskar Guðmundsson
The contrast between the books of Paasilinna and Guðmundsson couldn’t be starker. Let me put it this way, The Commandments is dark, very dark but wow, is it well written. It’s graphic, disturbing and tense which keeps you reading despite the harrowing punishments being dished out (castration and crucifixion to give you a flavour of what to expect!).
The central theme of the book is historic abuse within the church with several priests having been cleared of any wrongdoing following what soon becomes clear was a very lax contemporaneous investigation. Someone however is out for revenge and it falls on police detective Salka Steinsdóttir to investigate and find the killer before the number of bodies increases. This is the first of Guðmundsson’s books (and I think still the only) to be translated into English and it’s one I would certainly recommend. Is there no end to the number of talented crime writers coming out of Iceland?!
Feature by Marc Harries