Title: The Sixteen Trees of the Somme
Author : Lars Mytting
Translator from the Norwegan by Paul Russell Garrett
Genres: Literary Fiction, Translated, Scandi Noir
Publication Date: 10th August 2017
originally published in Norway in 2014 under the name Svøm med dem som drukner (translated as – Swim with those who drown)
My Rating: ★★★★☆
A family story of epic scale. Edvard grows up on a remote mountain farmstead in Norway with his taciturn grandfather, Sverre. The death of his parents, when he was three years old, has always been shrouded in mystery – he has never been told how or where it took place and has only a distant memory of his mother. But he knows that the fate of his grandfather’s brother, Einar, is somehow bound up with this mystery. One day a coffin is delivered for his grandfather long before his death – a meticulous, beautiful piece of craftsmanship. Perhaps Einar is not dead after all. Edvard’s desperate quest to unlock the family’s tragic secrets takes him on a long journey – from Norway to the Shetlands, and to the battlefields of France – to the discovery of a very unusual inheritance. The Sixteen Trees of the Somme is about the love of wood and finding your own self, a beautifully intricate and moving tale that spans an entire century.
It is at heart a mystery novel where Edvard attempts to find the truth about his parents death following a trail of clues to the Shetland Islands and then to battlefields from world war one in northern France. This book is beautifully written with very evocative language.
Hanne reached into the woolly shadows of the wardrobe and pulled out the smell of being old.
I do love it when whilst reading a novel I learn something. This book has taught me so much about wood and selecting wood for making fine furniture and shotguns. There is a love of wood running as a central theme through this book, it talks about the process of making flame birch where young trees are held in metal constraints which eventually the trees grow around and creating interesting flame like patterns.
“The dream still trembled inside me, like a phantom etched on my retina, gradually expelled by daylight.”
Although the books is told in the first person and is almost all totally concerned with Edvard I never truly understood him. I think this may be the personality of a stolid Norwegian man coming through, and he does not share his innermost thoughts with the reader.
I really enjoyed this book and if you like literature where the words weave a wonderful description of an unknown places especially with a bit of WW1 history thrown in then this may be a book for you.
Buy this book on Wordery