A Summer Of DrowningApril 17, 2012 No Comments
John Burnside’s novel A Summer of Drowning takes us into the mind of Liv, a woman remembering the strange, possibly supernatural events of a summer ten years before.
I was surprised to be so rapidly drawn into A Summer of Drowning, as I’ve never really warmed to Burnside’s poetry. The teenage Liv is a compelling creation, both in her solitude and solitary surroundings. The landscape of the Arctic Circle is convincing and beautifully described. The author’s technique of linking landmass and coastline while largely ignoring national boundaries gave weight to the theme of the ancient and the supernatural.
Even when the novel takes us away from Norway and into the far less mysterious setting of a Birmingham hospital and suburban hotel, the creepy knowledge that something is not quite right never leaves, and is communicated through subtle, everyday signals. Out of place rudeness, stares that last a bit too long. The distortion of ordinary, domestic objects and people is a classic horror technique well employed in this novel, which never failed to chill me.
Kyrre, the old man who is Liv’s only friend, is a compelling creation who I was left wanting to know much more about. Maia, the hurt and possibly possessed young woman, is more vision than person, but provides some great discourse and insight into Liv’s social self. Liv’s distant, isolated mother is a bit too romantic a figure to be believed, but still a fairly rounded character. There’s also something in Liv’s self-possession that occasionally rings false. Despite this, Burnside’s ability to inhabit the mind of a teenage girl with skill and originality impresses me.
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