Welcome to the last throwback ‘Thursday’ post, yes, yes, I know it’s a Tuesday, but thought I’d twist it up a bit. Today’s object of bookish admiration is A Modern Family by Helga Flatland that was translated by Rosie Hedger. I do love translated literature, and I loved A Modern Family.
This novel is a Norwegion coming of age one that was published by Orenda Books (obviously, it’s #Orentober) on the 13th of June and you can purchase the ebook directly from the Orenda ebookstore here, or from independent bookseller Bert’s Books here!
Helga Flatland is already one of Norway’s most awarded and widely read authors. She made her literary debut in 2010 with the novel Stay If You Can, Leave If You Must, for which she was awarded the Tarjei Vesaas’ First Book Prize. She has written four novels and a children’s book and has won several other literary awards.
Rosie Hedger was born in Scotland and completed her MA (Hons) in Scandinavian studies at the University of Edinburgh. She has lived and worked in Norway, Sweden and Denmark, and now lives in New York where she works as a freelance translator. Rosie was a candidate in the British Centre for Literary Translation’s mentoring scheme for Norwegian in 2012, mentored by Don Bartlett.
‘When Liv, Ellen and Håkon, along with their partners and children, arrive in Rome to celebrate their father’s seventieth birthday, a quiet earthquake occurs: their parents have decided to divorce.
Shocked and disbelieving, the siblings try to come to terms with their parents’ decision as it echoes through the homes they have built for themselves, and forces them to reconstruct the shared narrative of their childhood and family history.
A bittersweet novel of regret, relationships and rare psychological insights, A Modern Family encourages us to look at the people closest to us a little more carefully, and ultimately reveals that it’s never too late for change…‘
I’ve hugely procrastinated over this review, I’ve drunk buckets of coffee and eaten so many snacks while mulling over what I’m going to say. I finished A Modern Family speechless and entranced. The concept of this novel is both unique and intriguing as it dives into the knotted complexity of family life, from sibling rivalry, selfishness, bonds and parental divorce to name a few.
Liv, Ellen and Håkon’s life is thrown into an unknown when their parents decide to divorce after a 40 year marriage, to any child that would be a shock but these three siblings take the news in their own individual ways. This is where the cleverly written narrative swoops in, the sequence of events are then told in a multitude of point of views from the siblings. This structure allows the divorce announcement and aftermath to be described from the children’s view (although they’re adults), which is very emotional at times, especially as the characters are living through their own personal trials and tribulations. You can tell almost immediately that there is a kind of pack leader among the siblings, as well as a perceived order of favouritism, jealousy and cattiness. These injected traits tug the dynamic of a family unit to be examined under the microscope, you’ll find it very difficult not to find a piece of yourselves in these fictional characters – this enables the reader to identify with those involved and therefore be tugged in further to the dialogue.
Helga has penned a coming of age novel, that revolves around the crumbling illusion of a perfect family life with a number of in-depth layers that explore the multiplex of family life that left me transfixed and quite frankly watery eyed at the elaborate wave of detail that she had gone to. Not only is this a story about sibling life, but the love that children have for their parents, how thy have moulded themselves and expectations based on that of their parents, the traditions that are created and shared, the memories etc. The essence of family-hood live in these pages entwined in the conflict and loss.
This isn’t a book that you rush to read, it is a book in which you absorb at a slower pace, I couldn’t put it down and practically inhaled it – needing a breather after each chapter to process the words. Helga has a talent that charms the reader, as well as creating a believable and identifiable storyline, that kept me captivated deeply in this literary world of hers. Sensationally brilliant!
I’d also like to add that Rosie Ledger has translated this Nordic domestic fiction read superbly to a T! She also translated Agnes Ravatn’s The Bird Tribunal that was published by Orenda Books in 2016.
You absolutely need this book!