gavinf1980 (gavinf1980) wrote in 50bookchallenge,

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Book #16: The Ice Palace by Tarjei Vesaas

The Ice PalaceThe Ice Palace by Tarjei Vesaas

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

At the start of the book, written originally in Norweigan, the main character, Siss, meets a new girl, Unn, at school. Unn is a bit strange and withdrawn, and won't join in the playground games, but she makes friends with Siss, and invites her around to her house.

Unn, we are told, is an orphan, and lives with her auntie, and it is at this point that she starts becoming a bit clingly, trying to prevent Siss from leaving to go home.

The main plot, however, begins when Unn goes alone to visit the "Ice Palace", which is a frozen waterfall that the girls are fascinated by, and she never returns. The rest of the story is about Siss' grief and losing her friend, and how she reacts. This includes refusing to accept that Unn is gone to the point that when a new pupil arrives in class, she insists that the teacher bring a new desk into class than let the new kid sit at Unn's vacant desk.

Don't expect any clear resolution about Unn in this book; this doesn't happen, and the reader has to assume that she is dead.

My first impression was that this was a book for children/young adults, but was less sure during once scene near the start, where Siss and Unn decided to undress in Unn's bedroom; I was a little surprised at the inclusion of this moment, particularly with the characters being eleven year old girls.

I really enjoyed this book though; Unn's visit to the ice palace was the longest chapter in the book, and was written in vivid detail, and there seemed to be a bit of a subtext throughout the narrative involving glass and mirrors, including the two girls being fascinated by their reflection in a mirror at one point.

This was, not surprisingly, quite a dark story too, with some genuinely creepy moments, including when Siss was on her way back home from Unn's house, and one particular scene later on at the ice palace.

Despite this not being a particularly cheerful book, I loved the narrative style and found that I was gripped throughout.

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Tags: book review, contemporary, drama, european, fiction, foreign language, grief, magical realism, modern classic, modern lit, non-genre fiction, ominous

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