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The Cold Songby Linn Ullmann
Synopses & Reviews
But something was wrong. Siri held her breath. It had to do with Milla. Or something else. But Milla definitely had something to do with it. Her presence here at Mailund. The slightly lumpish body, the long dark hair (long dark hairs on the kitchen counter, in the bathroom sink, between the sofa and the sofa cushions, on the base-boards and doorframes), her face, sometimes pretty, sometimes not, beseeching eyes.
More and more Siri found herself having to concentrate in order to keep herself in check—was that the expression? Keep oneself in check? Be one. One body, one voice, one mouth, one thread, and not fall apart, dissolve, collapse in a heap.
“Your main responsibility,” Siri said, “will be to look after Liv for five hours or so every day. But we’d be grateful if you’d keep an eye on Alma as well. Alma’s twelve. She’s”—Siri searched for the right word —“a bit of a loner.”
Milla laughed hesitantly, brushed the hair back from her pretty moon face and said that she thought it all sounded really great.
It was a mild, bright day in May and Siri had invited Milla to the house in Oslo. The idea was for them to get to know each other a little better before the summer. Alma was at school, Liv was at nursery school, and Jon had gone for a long walk with Leopold. Something about a chapter he was having trouble writing.
Milla had replied to the ad on the Internet for a summer job and Siri had been taken with her application. In her e-mail she came across as a happy, friendly, reliable girl. It would be fantastic to get to know all of you and be able to be part of your family this summer. If I get the job I’ll do my best to be a good “big sister” to your daughters so that you and your husband won’t have to worry when you’re at work.
"The discovery of a corpse, presumed to be a murder victim, comes very early in this involving fifth novel from Ullmann (Before You Sleep). But it serves mostly as a basis for the author's subtle and menacing look at family dynamics. The story proceeds through flashbacks to those who were connected with the victim, a 19-year-old nanny named Milla. The prose is almost clinically cool, and the reader observes as three young boys digging for buried treasure find the body, then as an extended cast of characters react to the news of Milla's death. Milla worked as a nanny for young Alma and Liv, daughters of restaurateur Siri Brodal and her novelist husband Jon Dreyer, who are both struggling in their careers and their marriage. The family is spending the summer with Siri's mother, Jenny, an imperious woman closing in on 75, in her huge, elegant house by the sea in rural Norway. As a role model for Alma and a constant irritant to Siri, Milla upsets further the already-delicate family dynamics. Ullmann teeters between dark comedy of manners and genuine psychological thriller, but she consistently captures the telling moments in everyday encounters, and writes seductively complex characters." Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
Ullmann’s characters are complex and paradoxical: neither fully guilty nor fully innocent
Siri Brodal, a chef and restaurant owner, is married to Jon Dreyer, a famous novelist plagued by writer’s block. Siri and Jon have two daughters, and together they spend their summers on the coast of Norway, in a mansion belonging to Jenny Brodal, Siri’s stylish and unforgiving mother.
Siri and Jon’s marriage is loving but difficult, and troubled by painful secrets. They have a strained relationship with their elder daughter, Alma, who struggles to find her place in the family constellation. When Milla is hired as a nanny to allow Siri to work her long hours at the restaurant and Jon to supposedly meet the deadline on his book, life in the idyllic summer community takes a dire turn. One rainy July night, Milla disappears without a trace. After her remains are discovered and a suspect is identified, everyone who had any connection with her feels implicated in her tragedy and haunted by what they could have done to prevent it.
The Cold Song is a story about telling stories and about how life is continually invented and reinvented.
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