And the Wind Sees All
by Guðmundur Andri Thorsson
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
I read that the title of the English translation has been changed from
the original Icelandic The Waltz of the Valeyri which for me would have
described this book better. The Valeyri village choir will perform this
evening in the village hall, Currently Kata is cycling there and all
around her people are preparing and reading themselves for the evenings
performance. Everyone different, everyone's life different, everyone
with their own story. And each is told for the reader. In many ways the
reader feels like a voyeur, eves dropping into each home with each turn
of Kata's cycles wheels.
I particularly liked Sveni's story
entitled Off sick. He lives with Grimur his "one eyed , yellow striped
cat" who is "so old that all you can hear is an occasional creak",
rather than a sympathetic purr. And Sveni needs his cat and his
telephone call to his sister on days when he goes on a bender and the
past comes back to haunt him. I thought this story was really well told -
a whole life and its effects in 11 pages - that takes some writing
skill. The way Kata's own story is just dropped into the book, as if in
passing conversation, but it cuts like a knife.
Later there is a
passage which describes the proliferation of houses that has come as the
village has expanded beyond the traditional homes - "some of them
are comically lopsided but inspired by beautiful thoughts; others are
beautiful because of their history. Some or ugly because oft heir lack
of maintenance testifies to sloth and apathy; and some are ugly because
of something that has happened there. Some of them have been renovated
by younger generation, others are derelict or have been demolished and
replaced with box-like non-houses."
When I read this it seemed to
sum up the book for me, as if the passage referred not to houses but to
the village's residents. Happy moments,sad moments, dark secrets kept,
secrets told, families gone, love stories, wistful memories, and horrors
that still haunt the derelict souls they created.
have definitely found a niche in the market with their short, under 200
page, novels in translation, and if you want to try them out and
perhaps explore something other than Nordic Noir thrillers then this one
may well be a good one to start with. Take a 'Waltz with the Valyeri' and
see a whole world of life experiences. I just wish they'd do audiobooks!