Wednesday, October 11, 2017

October is the Coldest Month ~ Christoffer Carlsson (earc) review [@ccarlssons @ScribeUKbooks @rwillsonbroyles]

October is the Coldest Month
translated by Rachel Willson-Broyles
Scribe UK
June 08, 2017
192 pages
add to Goodreads/buy from Book Depository/AmazonUK/or Amazon

Vega Gillberg is 16 years old when the police come knocking on the door looking for her older brother, Jakob.

Vega hasn’t heard from him in days, but she has to find him before the police do. Jakob was involved in a terrible crime. What no one knows is that Vega was there, too.

In the rural Swedish community where the Gillbergs live, life is tough, the people are even tougher, and old feuds never die. As Vega sets out to find her brother, she must survive a series of threatening encounters in a deadly landscape. As if that wasn’t enough, she’s dealing with the longing she feels for a boy that she has sworn to forget, and the mixed-up feelings she has for her brother’s best friend.

During a damp, raw week in October, the door to the adult world swings open, and Vega realises that once she has crossed the threshold there is no turning back.

"The story would refer to Varvet as the 'remote Småland countryside'. It was weird--just because they were far away, we were the remote ones. Even though we were close to the action." *

I really enjoyed October is the Coldest Month: the story, the writing, the characters, the tone. This novel was originally published in Swedish and it felt very different from something set in England or the US - or even set in Sweden but written in English. For lack of a better way to say it (and I have tried to find one) it felt very Scandinavian.

Even as dark or criminal or dangerous or confusing (or a mix of all of the above) were happening, it did not feel as intense or fast paced as other stories I have read. I loved that Vega walked or rode her bike everywhere, that she lived by a giant, old, intimidating forest. I also loved her complicated, confusing relationships with her family members.

"In Varvet, you inherit your house, you way of life, your loyalties.History is your blood whether you want it there or no."*

Both the characters and their lives were very easy to relate to, though. Varvet is a town it is easy to get stuck in; to stay in your whole life. Whether you want to or not. Vega's description of what happens there, of who the people are and why they are there made it sound like a lot of American small towns.  It also feels like the perfect setting for her family: the absence of her father, the way her mother acts, what he uncle does, why he's back in Varvet, where her brother lives, etc. The author gave us the perfect setting and characters who, flaws, good intentions, not-so-good intentions, fit in could really only, all, live there.

As this is a translated work it's hard to know just how much of the writing (phrasing, word choice, etc) is the author and how much is the translator but it was great. Any book that can compare things to soon-to-be-decapitated Barbie heads and to buffalo and have them both work is something pretty special.

Vega and her entries into the adult world, the crime and what trying to figure it out reveals to Vega, Varvet and how living there shapes the characters, the tone and atmosphere of this story which were different and wonderful, and the fantastic writing all makes this a book you should read. I hope more of this author's works are translated into English.

*Quote is from arc and I could not find the section in any of the previews of the finished book online. If you have a finished copy and my quote is incorrect, let me know. (Or if you know a page number.)

digital review copy received from publisher, via NetGalley

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