Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Quicksand

A novel by Malin Persson Giolito
Translated from the Swedish by
Rachel Wilson-Broyles
Other Press, 2016

This is some of the best Scandinavian crime fiction I have read in recent years.

At the very beginning of the novel the reader is introduced to the plight of Maria Norberg, a teen-aged girl who had just participated in a horrific school shooting incident. This “mystery” is cast not in the form of a “whodunit”, but rather a “whydidit.” The book is laid out on overlapping sequences, all told from the point of view of the defendant. Maria's incarceration while waiting for her trial is one thread which skips between the trial itself and Maria’s recollection of the events leading up to the incident. There is a lot of overlapping—it may seem interminable to those with a short attention span—but I thought that it actually helped increase the tension and enriched the story’s ultimate resolution.

Having a young and somewhat shallow teenager as the voice of the novel could be a turn-off for some readers, but her narration gives the book a constant center that is used by the author to comment on modern life in general and that of Sweden in particular. The book takes place entirely in Maria’s head, giving it a somewhat claustrophobic feel. One quibble I did have was with the charges that the trial was based upon, of course my understanding of the way the Swedish courts work is limited. Gilolito is a practicing attorney, I'll take it for granted that she knows what she’s writing about.

I’ve read that the book has been optioned to Netflix. Maria’s main defense attorney, ala Perry Mason, will probably take the center stage in the filmed version, but without the internal POV of Maria, I can’t help but think that it will suffer in comparison. Wilson-Broyles translation is exceptional in its capture of the modern jargon as it effectively protrays Maria’s mental state.

By Professor Batty


2 Comments:

Blogger Jono said...

Putting this on my reading list.


Blogger Professor Batty said...

Once you accept the POV of a teen-age girl it is pretty compelling.

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