Set against Iceland’s harsh but beautiful landscape in the late 19th and early 20th century, Bjørn Larssen’s debut novel Storytellers explores the multi-generational effect of the evasions, embellishments and outright lies told in a small village. The book begins slowly, almost lyrically, pulling the reader into what seems like situation borrowed from folktale: a reclusive blacksmith, Gunnar, rescues an injured stranger, Sigurd. In exchange for his care, Sigurd offers Gunnar a lot of money, and a story.
But as Sigurd’s story progresses, and the book moves between the past and the present, darker elements begin to appear. Gunnar’s reclusiveness hides his own secrets, and the unresolved stories of his past. As other characters are introduced and their lives interweave, it becomes clear that at the heart of this small village there are things untold, things left out of the stories, purposely re-imagined. Both individual and collective histories – and memories – cannot be trusted.
The book was reminiscent of Kazuo Ishiguro’s The Buried Giant, in both theme and mood. Both books deal with the unreliability of memory; both are largely melancholy books. And perhaps there is allegory in them both, too. Storytellers is a book to be read when there is time for contemplation, maybe of an evening with a glass of wine. It isn’t always the easiest read, but it’s not a book I’m going to forget easily, either.
Now, for details:
Cover: definitely pulled me in. Some may see a disconnect between the cover font and the mood of the story, but I did not.
Production (e-book): Excellent. If there were any errors, I didn’t catch them.
Writing: Very good. English is not the author’s first language, but I wouldn’t have known.
Story Structure: you need to be paying attention as it jumps between times and characters…but this is a book that needs attention paying to it, not a light beach read.
I’ll post this review to Amazon & Goodreads, where I will assign a star rating. But I am no longer rating books on my blog, just giving you my opinion. I recommend Storytellers to readers willing to give time and thought and focus to a book, and who are comfortable with being challenged by what they read.