The Cold Song (Ullman, trans. by Haveland)

I’m not sure what drew me to this book (I suspect it was a review), but there it was on my list, and there it was in front of me, in paperback. The saleswoman said it had been popular recently, that Ullmann had been on NPR recently and that had brought people into the store.

It’s a remarkable web of a book, so remarkably constructed around a death and a birthday party, that it is hard to imagine how Ullmann planned such an intricate structure. DId she write it in order and then re-construct it? I’d love to know.

Her writing is tight, tense, and evocative. Every character is lively. There are no innocents here. No one is to blame, and every one is to blame. I love how only some questions are answered. What is the deal with Alma? Who is Irma? Why does she seem, to Simien, to glow? What is her relationship with Jenny?

It’s a small thing, but the use of technology here – cell phones, computers, etc. – matters here more than as markers of modernity. A text message that Jon receives unexpectedly is an incredibly tense moment, and it only could have been accomplished with a text message.

It is only at the end, when parallels are laid on a bit too thick, and Ullmann reaches for an ending that I felt a bit let down.

Otherwise, this was a remarkable find. Highly recommended.


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