I don’t know quite what happened between me and this book, but I didn’t get it. I didn’t get it and it bothered me so much that I kept reading and reading and reading and reading in the hope that I would get it, that I would be suddenly struck down by what the hell was going on. There were moments when I really found myself feeling as though I had missed something – and not something small and insignificant, mind you, but something central to the narrative, a key part of the story – and then there was this nagging feeling that plagued me: is this book written in a language that I don’t understand? Am I losing my mind??
But, I’m getting carried away. Let me start at the beginning – I loved (and I mean, really L.O.V.E.D) the opening of this book:
“It was the day the snow came. At eleven o’clock in the morning, large flakes appeared from a colourless sky and invaded the fields, gardens and lawns of Romerike like an armada from outer space. At two, the snowploughs were in action in Lillestrom, and when, at half past two, Sara Kvinesland slowly and carefully steered her Toyota Corolla SR5 between the detached houses in Kolloveien, the November snow was lying like a down duvet over the rolling countryside.”
This is the setting for the eerie (read: absolutely terrifying) action which follows with the appearance of a mystery snowman described by a little boy, Jonas: “It was, as his mother had said, big. Its eyes and mouth were made with pebbles and the nose was a carrot. The snowman had no hat, cap or scarf, and only one arm, a thin twig Jonas guessed had been taken from the hedge. However, there was something odd about the snowman. It was facing the wrong way. He didn’t know why, but it ought to have been looking out onto the road, towards the open space.”
Later that night, after Jonas’ father has left town on business, the little boy wakes up from a nightmare to find his mother has disappeared and the snowman is still outside, its “pebble-eyes … gleaming”. On searching, Jonas finds that the house is empty and on the stairs he feels something wet under his feet – “as if someone had been walking with wet shoes. Or wet feet.” It is at this point that I was gripped by the intensity of this narrative and perhaps this is what caused my disappointment, I felt as though I was going to be sucked in by the whirlwind of this narrative but instead, after this magnificent snippet of action, I was left hanging loosely, having come unstuck.
“In the porch he stuffed his feet into a pair of his father’s large shoes, put on a padded jacket over his pyjamas and went outside. Mum had said the snow would be gone by tomorrow, but it was still cold, and a light wind whispered and mumbled in the oak tree by the gate. It was no more than a hundred metres to the Bendiksens’ house, and fortunately there were two street lamps on the way. She had to be there. He glanced to the left and to the right to make sure there was no one who could stop him. Then he caught sight of the snowman. It stood there as before, immovable, facing the house, bathed in the cold moonlight. Yet there was something different about it, something almost human, something familiar. Jonas looked at the Bendiksens’ house. He decided to run. But he didn’t. Instead he stood feeling the tentative, ice-cold wind go right through him. He turned slowly back to the snowman. Now he realised what it was that had made the snowman so familiar. It was wearing a scarf. A pink scarf. The scarf Jonas had given his mother for Christmas.”
I was left with goosebumps.