When a friend sends me a book because they think I will enjoy it then read it I must. This book is not nordic noir but it is set in Northern Sweden on the edge of the Arctic circle. The book contains some of the elements I associate with nordic noir and I have tried to outline them in this piece. I began reading this during the Covid 19 lock down and initially as I was reading I kept thinking nothing is happening in this book and yet every night I am looking forward to reading more.
The book is quiet. Very quiet. The tale is about a young woman who moves from the city to a village in northern Sweden to be with her boyfriend. Circumstances change and the young woman is alone but chooses to stay in the village anyway and see what happens. The pages describe her routine daily life and we experience the changes that the seasons have on this. We read about her co-workers, house mate, a few other people but on the whole it is a very introspective book. The other characters are almost like punctuation to the central character’s story.
The landscape plays a part in this tale. Forests, a frozen lake, darkness, light, weather. She experiences things such as; driving on a lake in winter, sleeplessness due to midsummer light. Very occasionally she makes a trip to the nearest coastal town. Sometimes she thinks about the urban environment which she came from. She slowly gets to know the area she lives in and escapes into nature to clear her head. Driving in the landscape she gets to know people around her.
The book describes isolation brilliantly. The character is alone in this place. She is not a local and this weighs on her mind a lot. She does nearly everything on her own apart from work and Saturday nights. She realises that social gatherings are important but you never get the feeling that she really wants to be there. She always feels like an outsider. She works through her feelings about being there on her own, not with her boyfriend as she expected. She grows up during the book. As a reader we feel her beginning to the understand the unwritten social codes in the rural village she chose to stay in. She also begins to understand herself better.
It was the unremarkable feeling that this book gave me that drew me back to it during this pandemic. There is something comforting about reading the details of another’s hum drum daily activities that I enjoyed. She lives in a place where not much changes. There is an element of predictability. It started off as a bit of a mundane read and became something comforting. As a reader my understanding of the character grew as she grew, I settled into the read as she settled into her life there. It was a really satisfying read by the end. The book has already been made into a film called Inland (Director Jon Blahed) and I can picture it as a quiet visual Nordic feast. I am sure it will feature great landscape shots, an attention to detail and a strong female lead. So if this sounds like your kind of read definitely check it out. Below is a short video with the author and you can read another review here:
Inlands is written by Elin Willows and published by Nordisk Books. It was translated by Duncan J Lewis.