A Summer of Drowning is one of those books with no real plots, but then it doesn’t really matter since the plot is not the point.
The artist, Angelika Rossdal and her daughter, Liv (the narrator) live solitary lives in Kvaløya, an isolated island in Norway. Liv, now 28 years old, recalls the summer she was 18 when there was a spate of four unexplained disappearances. Their only neighbour and Liv’s only friend is a mysterious old man, Kyrre, who beguiles Liv with myths, particularly about the huldra – who seduces young men and leads them to their death.
Reading this felt like dreaming most of the time, in that it’s often almost ‘structure-less’, meanders, is full of images that the prose brings to the mind – these images sometimes visceral in its beauty, sometimes terror inducing in that they make you feel out of control. The author is a poet which is evident in the lyricism of his prose – there are whole paragraphs that I have highlighted. It also transports you to a world of imagination and silence – you think of the spaces between silences and what exists apart from the bustle of everyday life. Through a beautifully illustrative description of the landscape (which is also like a character in the novel), the author evokes questions about the mysteries of the natural world away from modern living, and about how despite advances in technology, man doesn’t really see beyond the obvious and cannot unravel or even see the mythical and mystical since he has lost the ability to do so.
I have always loved books about quiet lives and this is a book for those who love their alone time and a vast space not filled with people. Liv is definitely my kindred spirit in her desire to break away from the norms that define societal structures, and from the ordinary and the everyday.
Overall, this is recommended for those with a lot of patience, which will be rewarded if you enjoy beautiful sentences.