Malin’s #CBR5 Review #45: Maskeblomstfamilien (the Figwort Family) by Lars Saabye Christensen

I had a good childhood. My father died when I was twelve. My mother went to bed early. I was an only child.” 

These are the opening lines of Maskeblomstfamilien, a title which can be translated as The Figwort Family, but which can be interpreted in several ways, and holds more than one meaning. The plants and flowers of the Figwort Family usually have large leaves that cover up and blanket the ground. The flowers are often without scent, but if they do smell, it’s more of an unpleasant stench than a refreshing smell. Foxglove, and other flowers in the Digitalis family, which is a subgroup of the Figwort family, are all poisonous.

In Norwegian, the title can also be broken into three – maske means mask, blomstmeans flower and familien means the family. Every significant person in this novel are not entirely as they appear at first, they all wear masks. The Greek tragedy ofOedipus also plays a central part in the last third of the novel, which is in itself structured as a classical tragedy in three acts. The flower is Adrian, the protagonist, who, considering the environment in which he is raised, unsurprisingly grows up to be a deeply twisted individual. The Wang family, his family, are not supportive or nurturing, and they all have dark secrets.

Interested in the rest of the review? Go to my blog.

Malin’s #CBR5 Review # 20: Ut å stjæle hester by Per Petterson (Out Stealing Horses)

3.5 stars

I work as a secondary school teacher, teaching Norwegian teenagers English and Norwegian. Because I don’t actually have any formal training as a Norwegian teacher, I’m also studying it part-time, which last semester meant studying grammar at a much more advanced level than I’d ever previously done, and this semester involves language history and reading a representative selection of contemporary Norwegian fiction. I’m ashamed to say that fond as I am of reading, the last time I finished a Norwegian novel was in 2010, when I read Victoria by Knut Hamsun with the tenth-graders. I read pretty exclusively in English, and this semester will be my chance to read more in my mother tongue.

Trond is an elderly man, clearly just past his pension age, who’s moved out into the middle of the woods in the Norwegian country side. He clearly enjoys solitude, and spends his days walking his dog,  fixing up little things around the rustic cabin where he lives. A chance meeting with his closest neighbor, another solitary elderly man,  sets him reminiscing about his past, mostly returning to the summer of 1948, when he was 15 and his life changed forever.