Reading guide for The Bell in the Lake by Lars Mytting

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The Bell in the Lake

Sister Bells Trilogy #1

by Lars Mytting

The Bell in the Lake by Lars Mytting X
The Bell in the Lake by Lars Mytting
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  • First Published:
    Sep 2020, 400 pages

    Sep 2022, 416 pages


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Book Reviewed by:
Rebecca Foster
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About this Book

Reading Guide Questions Print Excerpt

Please be aware that this discussion guide will contain spoilers!


Lars Mytting, bestselling author of Norwegian Wood, brings his deep knowledge of history, carpentry, fishing, and stave churches to this compelling historical novel, an international bestseller sold in 12 countries. With its broad-canvas narrative about the intersection of religion, superstition, and duty, The Bell in the Lake is an irresistible story of ancient times and modern challenges, by a powerful international voice.

Discussion Questions
  1. What do you think the legend of Halfrid and Gunhild Hekne and their mother who died in childbirth meant to the townspeople of Butangen?
  2. In what ways are the settings of Butangen and Dresden different? How are they similar?
  3. How do the social norms and etiquette of the times influence the characters and their decisions? How are norms upheld, and how are they subverted?
  4. In what ways are the main characters alike? In what ways are they different? Are they more similar than they are different, or more different than they are similar?
  5. Which of the main characters do you relate to most, if any of them? Which of their attributes and behaviors, if any, do you see in yourself? 
  6. What is the role and impact of modernity in the novel? Do you believe it challenges the characters in a good or bad way?
  7. At what moments did you feel Astrid, Kai Schweigaard, and Gerhard Schonauer were most challenged individually and collectively?
  8. There are many strange happenings throughout the book, especially regarding the mystical nature of the Sister Bells. Is there one that sticks out to you? Why?
  9. With Gerhard Schonauer being the first human being from the outside world Astrid has ever encountered, describe their first meeting.
  10. How do Kai Schweigaard and Gerhard Schonauer each view the local stave church?
  11. How do languages and their limitations play out in the story?
  12. A lot of attention is given to the environment and its harshness, especially the weather. How does this factor into the local folklore of Butangen and villager perceptions of the outside world?
  13. What do you think of the change we are experiencing presently from various technological advancements? Do you see parallels between this story of Butangen and our main characters and society today?
  14. Author Lars Mytting opens The Bell in the Lake with a quote from Joseph Conrad's famous novel Heart of Darkness. Why do you think he chose this quote? How does it add to the story's descriptions of light and darkness?

Unless otherwise stated, this discussion guide is reprinted with the permission of The Overlook Press. Any page references refer to a USA edition of the book, usually the trade paperback version, and may vary in other editions.

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