Teresa Borden, March 24, 2011 (view all comments by Teresa Borden)
The wild landscape in this compelling novel is amazing, but the relationship between Arvid, the grown son, and his contemptuous yet affectionate mother who is dying from cancer is the real, can't-look-away narrative draw. As the story unfolds, going back and forth in time, the truth becomes more ambiguous yet also sharper, like shards of rock gleaming on a beach.
jf2370, January 1, 2011 (view all comments by jf2370)
No one does the kind of melancholy that sneaks up from behind the way Petterson does and this is no exception. In the hands of a lesser writer, this plot--a son going through a divorce returning home to attend to his mother stricken with cancer--could have collapsed under the weight of sugary sentimentality but that isn't Petterson's style. Arvid Jansen, who previously appeared in IN THE WAKE (a loose prequel to I CURSE), is a realistic hero, the kind with believable flaws who has come to a point in his life where he's questioning choices he made as a young man.
Like in Petterson's OUT STEALING HORSES, the past here is never dead. It's not even past.
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Lisa Brown, August 27, 2010 (view all comments by Lisa Brown)
just finished this book today (thanks, indiespensible!), and it was time well spent. while the dust jacket makes reference of the fact that the book deals with communism circa 1989, the real meat of this story (for me, anyway) was the investigation of a 37-year-old man's relationship with his mother &, to a lesser extent, father. there's no coincidence that petterson makes reference to the fall of the berlin wall, as it represents the cathartic release the narrator longs to find. but does he? you've got to read it to find out.
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Exploring politics, philosophy, the nature of love, and the question of how to live a good life, Petterson's latest is melancholy, beautiful, and at times darkly funny — another extraordinary novel from a master of the form.
by Jill Owens
"Publishers Weekly Review"
by Publishers Weekly,
"Like an emotional sucker punch, the latest novel from the much-acclaimed Petterson (a prequel to 2006's In the Wake) examines lives half-lived, ending, and perhaps beginning anew. In 1989, 37-year-old Arvid Jansen's marriage is ending and his mother is dying of cancer. Hoping to leave his marital woes behind in Oslo, Jansen follows his Danish-born mother to her home country, to the beach house where the family spent summers. During the ferry ride and the following days in Denmark, Jansen recalls his childhood bond with his mother and his decision, after two years of college, to leave school and join his fellow Communists in the factories. He struggles with his commitment to communism — the title is a line from a poem by Mao — and with his place in his family and in the larger world. Thankfully, there is neither overt sentimentalism nor a deathbed declaration of love between mother and son, but Petterson blends enough hope with the gorgeously evoked melancholy to come up with a heartbreaking and cautiously optimistic work. (Aug.)" Publishers Weekly (Copyright PWyxz LLC)
by New Yorker,
"Petterson’s spare and deliberate prose has astonishing force."
by Richard Ford,
"It has to be said, on the evidence of these few novels, that Per Petterson is a profoundly gifted novelist."
by Publishers Weekly,
"Like an emotional sucker punch, the latest novel from the much-acclaimed Petterson...examines lives half-lived, ending, and perhaps beginning anew....Petterson blends enough hope with the gorgeously evoked melancholy to come up with a heartbreaking and cautiously optimistic work." (starred review)
"Reading a Petterson novel is like falling into a northern landscape painting — all shafts of light and clear palpable chill."
An enthralling story of a mother and son’s turbulent relationship told in Petterson’s signature style.
An enthralling novel of a mother and son's turbulent relationship from the author of Out Stealing Horses
Norway, 1989: Communism is unraveling all over Europe. Arvid Jansen, thirty-seven, is trying to bridge the yawning gulf that opened up years earlier between himself and his mother. He is in the throes of a divorce, and she has just been diagnosed with cancer.
Over a few intense autumn days, Arvid struggles to find a new footing in his life. As he attempts to negotiate the present changes around him, he casts his mind back to holidays on the beach with his brothers, and to the early days of his courtship. Most importantly, he revisits the idealism of his communist youth, when he chose the factory floor over the college education his mother had struggled so hard to provide. Back then, Arvid's loyalty to his working-class background outweighed his mother's wish for him to escape it.
As Petterson's masterful narrative shifts effortlessly through the years, we see Arvid tentatively circling his mother, unable to tell her what she already knows he is thinking. In its piercing portrait of their layered relationship, I Curse the River of Time bears all the hallmarks of Petterson's compassion for humanity that has won him readers the world over.
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