An international literary sensation about an arsonist on the loose in rural Norway and the young man haunted by the story.
In 1970s Norway, an arsonist targets a small town for one long, terrifying month. One by one, buildings go up in flames. Suspicion spreads among the neighbors as they wonder if one of their own is responsible. But as the heat and panic rise, new life finds a way to emerge. Amid the chaos, only a day before the last house is set afire, the community comes together for the christening of a young boy named Gaute Heivoll. As he grows up, stories about the time of fear and fire become deeply engrained in his young mind until, as an adult, he begins to retell the story. At the novel's apex the lives of Heivoll's friends and neighbors mix with his own life, and the identity of the arsonist and his motivations are slowly revealed.
Based on the true account of Norway's most dramatic arson case, Before I Burn is a powerful, gripping breakout novel from an exceptionally talented author.
Before I Burn by Gaute Heivoll
It was dark in the living room, but the windows, strangely shiny and black, gleamed as though from a dim light outside in the garden. She walked to the window and peered out. The moon had risen above the treetops to the south, she saw the cherry tree, which was still in blossom, and had it not been for the mist she would have been able to see right down to Lake Livannet in the west.
A car with no lights on drove past the house and continued at a slow pace along the road towards the collection of homesteads known as Mæsel. The car was black, or perhaps red; she couldn't tell. Not moving at any great speed, it finally rounded the bend and was gone. She stood by the window waiting for one, two, perhaps three minutes. Then she went into the bedroom.
'Olav,' she whispered. 'Olav.'
No answer. He was in his usual deep sleep. She hurried back into the living room, knocked into the chair arm, hurting her thigh, ...
So this is a memoir about events in Heivoll's youth, his own growth, and his developing interest in writing about the pyromaniac that caused chaos in Finsland, Norway in 1978, right? Well, no. Gaute Heivoll insists that he has written a novel, although he does not include the novelist's usual disclaimer that any similarity to real persons is coincidental. However, the story is, at least in part, fiction, and Heivoll's sensuous descriptions and compelling dialogue prove him a first rate novelist.
(Reviewed by Bob Sauerbrey).
Full Review (842 words).
Hamlet says, at the opening of Shakespeare's play:
O, that this too too solid flesh would melt
Thaw and resolve itself into a dew!
Or that the Everlasting had not fix'd
His canon 'gainst self-slaughter! O God! God!
How weary, stale, flat and unprofitable,
Seem to me all the uses of this world!
By the final act, he says:
…we defy augury: there's a special
providence in the fall of a sparrow. If it be now,
'tis not to come; if it be not to come, it will be
now; if it be not now, yet it will come: the
readiness is all:..
A question that pervades Hamlet, as well as most of Shakespeare's plays is: Where is Shakespeare here? What is his worldview? Which character speaks for him? Part of Shakespeare's genius ...
If you liked Before I Burn, try these:
Saint-Martin-de-Comminges is a small town nestled in the French Pyrenees. The kind of place where winters are harsh and unforgiving and where nothing ever happens. Until the winter morning when a group of workers discover the headless, flayed body of a horse, hanging suspended from the edge of a frozen cliff.
A reimagining of The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde from the monster's perspective, Hyde makes a hero of a villain.
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