Saturday, July 23, 2011

book review: I Curse the River of Time by Per Petterson

I Curse the River of Time: A Novel Translated from the Norwegian by Charlotte Barslund with Per Petterson

The backstory:
I Curse the River of Time was shortlisted for the 2011 Independent Foreign Fiction Prize.

The basics: With his wife divorcing him and his mother being diagnosed with cancer, Avrid decides to follow his mother from Oslo to her home country of Denmark, where she has not lived for forty years. On the ferry ride, he remembers the choices he's made during life and the paths he's been on.

My thoughts: I Curse the River of Time was a book that started quite strongly for me. I enjoyed the narrative voice immensely. The prose had a curtness to it I liked. Avrid is unapologetic and his narration reinforced it to the reader. Initially, I was enchanted by the theme of home in this novel. With Avrid facing divorce and his mother dealing with cancer, both undertook geographical change. The very nature of home and its comfort was confronted.

Despite a strong start, this novel fizzled for me as Avrid's past took center stage. I was so much more interested in the present and future, and I enjoyed the mystery of his past. He was a scarred man, and for me, the possibilities of his past were more engaging than the realities. When I stopped caring about the characters, Petterson's choppy writing became a bit grating as well.

Favorite passage: "I cannot imagine she craved company in the cafeteria on board the Holger Danske and approached a table to engage in conversation, to find out what their thoughts were and what their dreams, for they were of her kind and had the same background, or the opposite, because they were different too, and it is in the way we differ that you find what is interesting."

The verdict: Ultimately, a strong start and a disappointing trajectory made this a forgettable read for me.

Rating: 3 stars (out of 5)
Length: 233 pages
Publication date: August 3, 2010 (the paperback comes out August 2, 2011)
Source: my local public library

Now tell me, should I give Per Petterson another chance? Have you loved any of his novels?

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  1. I have a copy of this, but I wasn't a big fan of Stealing Horses and so am reluctant to start. I'm sorry to see that you weren't impressed by this one. :-(

  2. There is another book of his that I have heard about. But I forgot the name. I'll let you know once I find it. I have been looking forward to reading his works too.

  3. You should definitely give Petterson another try. I loved Out Stealing Horses (reviewed here), while I felt much the way you did with I Curse the River of Time (reviewed here). So he has a 50% "like" ratio for me *smiles*. I'll read another by him just in the hopes that it is like Out Stealing Horses!

  4. I hate it when a book starts off strong and then fizzles. It annoys. I have heard some good things about Petterson, particularly about Out Stealing Horses. I had not heard much about this book though, before reading your review. Sorry to hear that you were not enamored of this one.

  5. The other Per Petterson novel available in English is To Siberia: A Novel. This is one I'd like to read because of its connection to the German resistance and World War II.

    Judith (Reader in the Wilderness)

  6. Completely agree with you. I had a tough time with this one for many of the same reasons.

  7. I read this back in May, and was unimpressed. My notes say "I'm not super interested in overgrown man-children."

    I went in with such high hopes, too! I loved, loved, loved Out Stealing Horses, but this one just didn't compare.


Thank you for taking the time to comment. Happy reading!