201901LaajavuoriThis PEN award winner is indeed about love, and distance. I haven’t read such a desperately sad story for a long, long time.

Like Romeo and Juliet, it’s the just-too-lateness of it all that is the most tragic.

But this isn’t a tale of star-crossed lovers; it’s about a mother and son.

They have just moved from the city to this little Norwegian village. It’s a place with a history that they don’t know anything about. But Jon, the son, is curious to find out as much as he can, and goes out to meet his neighbours, who tell him. One even lends him his skates.


At the same time, his mother seems more focused on looking after herself. I didn’t want to take sides, but found I soon did. While his mother is preparing to go out, almost-eight-year-old Jon imagines that she’s preparing a party just for him…


This is not true. But it would be too easy to simply blame his mother, Vibeke. She too is looking for a connection, a spark, and as the fair comes to town, it seems she just might find it.


Mother and son are both drawn towards the warmth and lights of the fair, and away from each other. Before they know it, it’s late,

and dark,

and cold.

Will either of them make it home safely?

The end of Lent is a good time to read Love, by Hanne Ørstavik, in Martin Aitken’s spare and clear translation. And as soon as you put it down, pick up the phone, or go to see someone, or talk to someone you’ve been meaning to talk to for a while. While there’s still time.

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