This is an unusual novel which I thought was kind of uplifting even though there are so many funerals in it.
The narrator is Jakop, a Norwegian man in his sixties who is writing to someone named Agnes, telling her (and therefore us) about the events in his life and the web of coincidences which brought the two of them together. At first, I found the story difficult to get into because there were quite a number of characters introduced, all from the same family. There is also a different sort of family, that of the Indo-European languages, which Jakop is passionate about to the extent that he explains the roots of various words to anyone he meets. I’ve not encountered this in a novel before and I have to admit I skimmed over Jakop’s philological outbursts, to avoid my eyes glazing over.
The main themes of the story are loneliness and how everything is connected. I liked Jakop, as he was a memorable character you can care about. There are a couple of twists halfway through the novel, at which point I realised that this is one of those rare books which improves as the pages turn. The settings were varied, being in different locations around Norway and Sweden. At times the content approached the elegiac tone of the old Scandinavian poetry. It’s a thoughtful book, which although not always riveting, is certainly worth reading.
First published in 2013. This edition translated from the Norwegian by Nichola Smalley, 2018.