This is a review of the English translation of a Norwegian novel.
I’m not really sure what to make of this book. I got it because it’s short (147 pages) and the main character sounded intriguing. When I finished it, I just stared at it for a few minutes. I knew that I liked the book, but I didn’t know what I was supposed to think about it. This is an odd little story.
There isn’t really a plot. The book is more like a string of strange events that happen in the life of an anxious woman. The story focuses on Mathea, an elderly widow who is terrified of both life and death. Her husband was the only person she ever felt comfortable around. She spends most of her time in her apartment, avoiding the outside world. Even though Mathea is afraid of people, she doesn’t want to die without anyone knowing that she lived. She leaves her apartment and tries to connect with others, but it doesn’t really work out.
This book is beautifully written. The writing style is somewhat minimalistic and distant, but it does a good job of showing Mathea’s odd, fearful personality. The story is fragmented and jumps around in time. It’s also a tragicomedy, so it’s full of dark humor. The book seems funny on the surface, but it’s depressing underneath.
I think Mathea’s situation is relatable. Everyone wants to make connections with others and leave their mark on the world. Figuring out how to do that is challenging.
My issue with the book is that Mathea is too bizarre for me. She’s one of those characters who are weird just for the sake of being weird. She does random, quirky things (like obsessing over whether or not her words rhyme and feeding her dog meringue) that real people probably wouldn’t do. Her behavior just seems too illogical to be realistic. Even if she had a mental illness or something, wouldn’t her strange behavior make sense to her and therefore make sense to the reader? She spends a lot of the book doing strange things that I couldn’t see the logic behind. (Or maybe I’m just not smart enough for this story?) Also, I’ve encountered too many of these “weird for the sake of being weird” characters in adult literary fiction. I think they’ve become cliché.
I enjoyed this book because it’s well-written and entertaining (in a depressing way), but it didn’t blow my mind.