Friday, 10 August 2012

Pia Juul - The Murder of Halland

This is not your regular Scandinavian crime story. Pia Juul might be from Denmark and the book has ‘murder’ in the title, yet this murder is like the hole in a bagel – it’s right in the centre of it but it’s the stuff around it that actually matters.

Bess, Halland’s widow, narrates the story as she were sleep-walking.  As a reader, you are pulled into this strange story where things don’t follow a rigid cause-effect structure and you don’t even realise it until you close the book and wake up.

Retelling the plot of it would be like retelling a dream – “and then her estranged daughter came, and Bess’s ex-husband wanted to have sex, the neighbour went missing, and there was the pregnant niece again, and then there was a dog”. It only makes sense when you are in the dream.

Is Bess really grieving, or is she just going mad? Maybe she is cold, detached and self-centered? I believe she really was grieving. The way her brain bombarded her with even most bizarre thoughts is symptomatic for someone experiencing some sort of trauma (but not very good at vocalising their emotions). On the other hand, Bess is a very unreliable narrator and I am very gullible. Maybe she murdered Halland? But maybe Halland set it all up? Maybe he had an affair? Maybe Bess had an affair?

Not having simple answers might be frustrating but not in this case (or maybe I am just eternally patient, now that I have quit my job and can sleep late everyday?). It is not that you are given jigsaw puzzles that will never make a complete picture. They can actually make a few different pictures depending on how you rotate them. As every postmodernist would tell you – the book now belongs to you.

I wonder where the dog went to.

2 comments:

  1. Hi Kinga
    I liked this book too, and the lack of clear answers didn't frustrate me. Sometimes having too clear an answer is frustrating in itself, or at least disappointing. This book left a lot of room for interpretation and musing, and I liked that. It also mocked the usual detective-story neat endings. I liked the sleep-walking image - there certainly was a dream-like quality to the book.

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  2. Hi Andrew,

    Thanks for the comment. I read your review as well. Have you read anything else that was interesting and recommendable?

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