I am not one who is usually well served by hype. I tend to not ‘get’ what people are finding exciting from a particular book making its rounds. When I do understand the point and join my voice with all those clamouring, it is a joy all on its own. This is one such book.
I initially wanted to read it because it was based in a country I haven’t read much about and a time which I cannot even fathom. This book is an ode to all those who find themselves just outside the circle of the ‘norm’. People who want something in life, which is hard-fought and sometimes not even possible, if, that is, one knows what that thing is in the first place. Sven is born in a time and place which provides him with very few opportunities to trace his own path. He breaks from tradition when he comes to his sister’s aid, and then she returns the favour. Although Sven wants to be a trailblazer (without the publicity or fanfare), he acknowledges his luck in finding the right people at the right time.
I tried to talk about its content to a couple of people before writing this review and know that it sounds bland. The writing and the people are what this entire experience of reading hinges on.
This is Sven’s life story or saga. A kind of narrative, when well written, I am always a fan of. It was not as dark as I expected it to be, although it has its moments. The focus is all on the emotions of everyone. I stomached a few things easier than I expected to because of the framework in which it was presented. The harshness as well as the beauty of the land in which Sven lived and worked, and his own small family that assembled around him over time warmed my heart multiple times over.
The imagery triggered by the narrative is very potent, which is about the best way I can put it. I actually highlighted a few quotes that spoke to me but had to stop after a point. There are two main ones below:
Any Artic explorer or common sailor can tell you this. So you must make the best choices you can, knowing that they may lead you astray, but proceeding boldly lest your life become one long monotonous drift between death and your least interesting choice.
– The best part is that I would not usually concur with such an emotion, but in the book, it strays so far from one that is universally thrust upon society, that it made sense.
“What did he make of my perforated smile..”
– Something that revealed the depths of emotion that Sven felt when seeing a friendly face.
I am usually not moved to make this extra effort. Even when I really get into a book, I often do not mark things. This is a book I feel even my husband (who does not read much fiction) would enjoy. It is one that I am seriously considering adding to my physical collection and rereading, slower this time.
The strangest thing about my reading experience, one that very clearly marks it apart from a few others, is that my advance review copy was horrible. There was something wrong with it, and every sentence had numbers next to it. So on any given page, the narrative was punctuated by a hundred or more numbers littered in between the paragraphs(in red and black colours)! I found myself able to ignore them beyond a point which was fascinating to me because I am usually not that focused!
I highly recommend this to anyone who wants historical fiction with emotional overtones and adventure in its heart.
I received an ARC thanks to NetGalley and the publishers, but the review is entirely based on my own reading experience.