What a clever, enigmatic, and disorientating book!
Bess is a writer. A grieving, eccentric, bizarre writer who drinks more than she writes. Her husband Halland has been shot.
The story is told solely from Bess’s point of view. Since she is drunk a lot of the time, this view can be skewed and whimsical, not to mention peculiar. Bess seems to be struggling and fighting her way out of a murky gloaming. She seems confused and disorientated. Is is just her way of dealing with loss?
Halland is Bess’s second husband. She left her first husband and her daughter to be with Halland. She has been estranged from her daughter, Abby ever since. Recently, the handsome and much older Halland has been ill. Bess longs to be reconnected with her daughter…
First, let me state categorically that this is NOT a murder mystery. We don’t know who killed Halland at the beginning of the book, nor do we know at the end. This is more a book about grief, guilt, and of course, love.
Even though the writing is wonderful and almost like the poetry that the author is famous for, I cannot in good conscience give this more than four stars. That doesn’t mean that it is not deserving of more, only that my personal taste considers it just a bit too quirky to merit five. Bess was just too ‘out there’ for me to genuinely connect with her on a personal level.
I recommend this literary novella to everyone on the basis of the brilliant writing and the fact that reading it causes the reader to become ruminative and introspective.
Kudos go out to Martin Aitken who translated “The murder of Halland” from the Danish losing none of its profound nuances.
“The murder of Halland” won Denmark’s most prestigious literary prize, Danske Banks Litteraturpris.
Thanks to Coach House Books via Edelweiss for providing me with a digital copy of this novella in exchange for my candid review.
Pia Juul has published nine books of poetry, three short story collections and two novels. The Murder of Halland won Denmark’s most important literary prize, Den Danske Banks Litteraturpris. She lives in Frederiksberg, Denmark.