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2014 Book Selections

Reviews are from Amazon.com.

Tuesday, February 18

Victoria
Victoria by Knut Hamsun 

When it first appeared in 1898, this fourth novel by celebrated Norwegian writer Knut Hamsun captured instant acclaim for its poetic, psychologically intense portrayal of love’s predicament in a class-bound society. Set in a coastal village of late nineteenth-century Norway, Victoria follows two doomed lovers through their thwarted lifelong romance. Johannes, the son of a miller, finds inspiration for his writing in his passionate devotion to Victoria, an impoverished aristocrat constrained by family loyalty. Separated by class barriers and social pressure, the fated pair parts ways, only to realize—too late—the grave misfortune of their lost opportunity. Elegantly rendered in this brand-new translation by Sverre Lyngstad, Victoria’s haunting lyricism and emotional depth remain as timeless as ever.

Tuesday, April 29

Oleanna
Oleanna: A Novel of Norway in 1905
 by Julie K. Rose 

Set during the separation of Norway from Sweden in 1905, this richly detailed novel of love and loss was inspired by the life of the author's great-great-aunts.

Oleanna and her sister Elisabeth are the last of their family working their farm deep in the western fjordland. A new century has begun, and the world outside is changing, but in the Sunnfjord their world is as small and secluded as the verdant banks of a high mountain lake.

The arrival of Anders, a cotter living just across the farm's border, unsettles Oleanna's peaceful but isolated existence. Sharing a common bond of loneliness and grief, Anders stirs within her the wildness and wanderlust she has worked so hard to tame. When she is confronted with another crippling loss, Oleanna must decide once and for all how to face her past, claim her future, and find her place in a wide new world.

Thursday, June 19

Land of Dreams by Vidar Sundstøl 

Winner of the Riverton Prize for best Norwegian crime novel and named by Dagbladet as one of the top twenty-five Norwegian crime novels of all time, The Land of Dreams is the chilling first installment in Vidar Sundstøl’s critically acclaimed Minnesota Trilogy, set on the rugged north shore of Lake Superior and in the region’s small towns and deep forests.

The grandson of Norwegian immigrants, Lance Hansen is a U.S. Forest Service officer and has a nearly all-consuming passion for local genealogy and history. But his quiet routines are shattered one morning when he comes upon a Norwegian tourist brutally murdered near a stone cross on the shore of Lake Superior. Another Norwegian man is nearby; covered in blood and staring out across the lake, he can only utter the word kjærlighet. Love.

FBI agent Bob Lecuyer is assigned to the case, as is Norwegian detective Eirik Nyland, who is immediately flown in from Oslo. As the investigation progresses, Lance begins to make shocking discoveries—including one that involves the murder of an Ojibwe man on the very same site more than one hundred years ago. As Lance digs into two murders separated by a century, he finds the clues may in fact lead toward someone much closer to home than he could have imagined.

The Land of Dreams is the opening chapter in a sweeping chronicle from one of Norway’s leading crime writers—a portrait of an extraordinary landscape, an exploration of hidden traumas and paths of silence that trouble history, and a haunting study in guilt and the bonds of blood.

Tuesday, August 19

Melancholy by Jon Fosse 

Melancholy takes us deep inside a painter's fragile consciousness, vulnerable to everything but therefore uniquely able to see its beauty and its light.
Lars Hertervig is a provincial young Norwegian from a poor Quaker background, studying art in Germany and prone to crippling insecurities, sexual obsessions, and terrifying hallucinations. In prose as hypnotic as Beckett's or Bernhard's—but earthier, and funnier—the novel describes a single day of crisis and its repercussions, years later for Lars himself and a century later for a writer inspired by Hertervig's vision. 

Tuesday, October 21

Birkebeiner: A Story of Motherhood and War by Jeff Foltz 

A mother’s compulsion to protect her children is timeless and primal. War is insidious and ageless. Birkebeiner is a story of both. Two years after her son Hakon's birth, Inga is with her husband, King Hakon, in the besieged fortress of Lillehammer. The enemy, the Crozier army, is certain to overrun Lillehammer. Once the Croziers breach the walls, they will kill Inga s child, heir to the Norwegian throne and the prince who may unite the country. To save little Hakon, King Hakon asks his two best warriors to flee with his son for the safety of Nidaros (present-day Trondheim). It is a long and dangerous journey on skis through two treacherous winter valleys and over a 7,000-foot snow-blown mountain. Willing to risk everything for her son, Inga insists on going with them. For eight harrowing, exhausting days, they re pursued by a cadre of enemy soldiers bent on killing her child. Magnus, the Crozier s military leader whom the church and the bishop call King -- and who has lost his own wife and two-year-old son -- must lead the chase. 

Tuesday December 16

Shyness and Dignity by Dag Solstad

An Ibsen scholar falls desperately out of society--publication coinciding with Ibsen's 100th anniversary celebrations

In front of him, twenty-nine young men and women about the age of eighteen who looked at him and returned his greeting. He asked them to take out their school edition of The Wild Duck. He was once more struck by their hostile attitude toward him. But it couldn't be helped, he had a task to perform and was going through with it. It was from them as a group that he sensed that massive dislike sent forth by their bodies. Individually they could be very pleasant, but together, positioned like now, at their desks, they constituted a structural enmity, directed at him and all that he stood for.

Elias Rukla begins yet another day under the leaden Oslo sky. At the high school where he teaches, a novel insight into Ibsen's The Wild Duck grips him with a passion so intense that he barely notices the disinterest of his students. After the lesson, when a broken umbrella provokes an unpredictable rage, he barely notices the students' intense curiosity. He soon realizes, however, that this day will be the decisive day of his life. 

Dag Solstad, praised in Norway as one of the most innovative novelists of his generation, offers an intricate and richly drawn portrait of a man who feels irrevocably alienated from contemporary culture, politics, and, ultimately, humanity.