Synopses & Reviews
An international literary sensation about an arsonist on the loose in rural Norway and the young man haunted by the story
In 1970s Norway, an arsonist targets a small town for one long, terrifying month. One by one, buildings go up in flames. Suspicion spreads among the neighbors as they wonder if one of their own is responsible. But as the heat and panic rise, new life finds a way to emerge. Amid the chaos, only a day before the last house is set afire, the community comes together for the christening of a young boy named Gaute Heivoll. As he grows up, stories about the time of fear and fire become deeply engrained in his young mind until, as an adult, he begins to retell the story. At the novels apex the lives of Heivolls friends and neighbors mix with his own life, and the identity of the arsonist and his motivations are slowly revealed. Based on the true account of Norways most dramatic arson case, Before I Burn is a powerful, gripping breakout novel from an exceptionally talented author.
"Finsland, a region of southern Norway, falls prey to a serial arsonist in Heivoll's first English-language novel, which reads like a top-tier crime story. The narrative alternates between accounts of the crimes and the autobiographical entries of a young man named Gaute Heivoll, born around the time of the first fires and coming of age in their shadow. The arson story is based on a real Norwegian crime spree, further obscuring the distinction between fiction and nonfiction within the novel. The arsonist, Dag, is a folkloric figure, though a sinister one. The style of these chapters will be familiar to readers of contemporary Scandinavian crime fiction. The deadpan irony of the dialogue and fetishistic, but systematic, descriptions of the crimes are chilly and resonant, playing out provocatively against the first-person narrative of young Gaute. Through emotional highs and lows, triggered by challenges at school as well as the deaths of his beloved Granddad and Pappa, Gaute's voice has an energetic and hopeful tone. It is Gaute's early interest in fire that leads him, once he becomes a writer, to research the notorious arsonist. A compulsively readable novel about identity and the increasingly blurred line between art and reality." Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
About the Author
Gaute Heivolls Before I Burn was a bestseller in Norway. The novel won the Brage Prize and was nominated for the Critics Prize and the Booksellers Prize, and has been sold in more than twenty countries.