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Depths: A Novel [Kindle Edition]

Henning Mankell
3.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (69 customer reviews)

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Book Description

It is October 1914, and Swedish naval officer Lars Tobiasson-Svartman is charged with a secret mission to take depth readings around the Stockholm archipelago. In the course of his work, he lands on the rocky isle of Halsskär. It seems impossible for it to be habitable, yet it is home to the young widow Sara Fredrika, who lives in near-total isolation and is unaware that the world is at war.

A man of control and precision, Tobiasson-Svartman is overwhelmed by his attraction to the half-wild, illiterate Sara Fredrika, a total contrast to his reserved, elegant wife. Soon he enacts the worst of his impulses, turning into another, far more dangerous man, ready to trade in lies and even death to get closer to the lonely woman without losing hold of his wife. Matters of shame, fidelity, and duty are swept to sea as he struggles to maintain his parallel lives, with devastating consequences for the women who love him.

Henning Mankell, author of the internationally bestselling Kurt Wallander series and the critically acclaimed Chronicler of the Winds, once again proves himself a master of the novel with Depths, an arresting, disquieting story of obsession.

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

This bizarre and compelling tale from Swedish author Mankell, best known for his crime novels featuring detective Kurt Wallander (The Man Who Smiled, etc.), focuses on a tortured naval officer, Lars Tobiasson-Svartman, who has the important duty of taking soundings for secret naval channels in the approach to Stockholm at the outbreak of WWI. Like a skilled stonemason, Mankell builds his portrait of Svartman with infinite patience, adding details and highlights layer by layer: Svartman as a naval officer attached to but not a part of a crew; Svartman as husband to a wife willingly left behind as he pursues his secret mission; and Svartman as the obsessed seeker of Sara, the lone inhabitant of Halsskär, a desolate and isolated island. Mankell fully sounds the depths of Svartman's obsessions in a way so artful as to appear artless, creating a masterful portrait not only of Svartman but of the women in his life. This is a memorable and shocking psychological study. (Apr.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

Mankell, best known for his Kurt Wallander series, shows us another dimension of his considerable talent. In October 1914, with World War I just beginning, Sweden's neutrality is not necessarily assured. Naval commander and hydrographic surveyor Lars Tobiasson-Svartman has a secret mission: to take new depth soundings in the Stockholm archipelago, part of a search for faster passages and safe havens for Swedish ships. He is a man obsessed with exactitude, yet he's never taken his own measure--he hides a deep, uncharted abyss in his soul. His love for his wife, in particular, has never been tested. When he meets a hardy, emotionally wounded woman living on a desolate, rocky island, his self-discipline unravels. He gropes blindly toward self-knowledge, leaving wreckage in his wake. As a portrait of alienation from the self, this recalls Camus' Stranger; as a portrait of strong women societally subordinate to blinkered men, it recalls Ibsen's Doll's House. If Mankell sometimes writes about his protagonist's emotional journey too plainly, this grim novel still casts a remarkably powerful spell. Keir Graff
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

Product Details

  • File Size: 465 KB
  • Print Length: 421 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 1595580891
  • Publisher: New Press, The (April 1, 2007)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B005OCJC5I
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #150,992 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
75 of 76 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Mankell Fans - Get this book through NOW! October 31, 2006
This is pure Henning Mankell. This is unlike any Henning Mankell you have ever read.

I am a huge Mankell fan, but am wary of non-Wallander Mankell. I didn't like the long non-Wallander sections of the White Lioness and was just moderately impressed with the Return of the Dancing Master.

So I stepped into Depths cautiously but was soon blown away. This is a remarkable novel that has a depth to it greater than any of the Wallander novels. It is, in part, a character study, a love story (perverse at that), a gothic novel, a thriller, and almost a horror novel.

Without giving too much away, this is a story about a sailor in the Swedish navy around 1915. He is married, but meets a woman on a remote island. Things get complicated. Very complicated. The protagonist is one of the more reprehensible characters I've ever read, and yet the incredible, harrowing ending made me sympathetic for him. Never before has Mankell so masterfully placed characters in tough situations and lead the reader through such sharp narrative twists and turns.

The sea features heavily in the novel and reminded me more, in many ways, of a Joseph Conrad novel than one of Mankell's crime novels, the depth of character and narrative reminds me of Ian McEwan. This is not a police procedural, but it is very thrilling. It's a novel about the frailty of the human heart, about making wrong choices, about hope and pain. It's pure literature and not only one of Mankell's best novels, but one of the best novels I've read in many, many years.
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32 of 32 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An exquisite novel of depth and suspense December 14, 2006
The novel opens with the harrowing scene of a woman called Kristina Tacker as she escapes from a psychiatric asylum. She vaguely remembers that her husband had the rank of Commander in the Swedish army and that he was a hydrographical survey engineer. At this moment, in 1937, Kristina Tacker is fifty-seven and it is twelve years since she has uttered her last word.

The reader is immediately drawn into the suspense created by this opening as he follows the story of the main character, Lars Tobiasson-Svartman, a man obsessed by the depths of the sea and torn between two women, Sara Frederika and his wife Kristina Tacker. We follow his destiny at the beginning of World War I as he slowly loses his grip on his surroundings and becomes entangled in a web of lies and crimes which inexorably leads to his downfall. He ends up by living in a world entirely created by lies. Indeed he becomes an impostor; an impostor lives a life but the deceit involved lives a different life. It is the tragic fate of a man whose life has always been based on lunatic ideas and who has built his existence on distances and depths instead of seeking closeness.
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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The deserved ruination of a despicable human May 12, 2007
Henning Mankell uses a distinctly different writing style in his latest translated novel "Depths", compared to his hugely popular Kurt Wallander series. Rather than using the descriptive style prevalent in his police procedurals, "Depths" is written concisely with a proponderence of chapters typified by their brevity. Whereas most of his previous offerings are presented in a largely somber manner, "Depths" is a downright depressing novel.

Mankell's novel commences with a woman, Kristina Tacker having escaped from a mental institution. He goes on to describe the circumstances that put her in her present predicament. Her husband, main character Lars Tobiasson-Svartman was a Swedish naval commander and venerable hydrographic engineer. At the onset of World War One he was commissioned to sound the depths of navigable waterways around the Stockholm archipelago, to update sea charts. This would allow safer and more rapid transit of Swedish ships during the tumultuous wartimes.

Svartman while on his secret mission discovers a woman living by herself on a small rocky island of Halsskar and becomes obsessed with her. He formulates a series of lies and deceptions to his wife, comrades and superiors that are fabricated to enable him to shirk his duties as both a commander and a husband to be with this woman, Sara Fredricka.

Gradually his whole essence sinks to the level of depravity as lies lead to violence and murder. While his pregnant wife sits in their Stockholm flat convinced that Svartman is on a clandestine mission, he is leading a double life on Halsskar.

Eventually he sinks into an abyss from which he cannot extricate himself as "Depths" plays out like a Swedish Shakespearean tragedy.
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19 of 21 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Descent into the depths June 30, 2007
A number of reviewers here were disappointed with this novel because of its relentless bleakness. The "Depths", by Henning Mankell, is bleak indeed, but it is not a story badly written. Some objected to "very short chapters", this of course is a valid stylistic exercise used by other authors, usually to make a point; it is used by Mankell to the same effect here (the protagonist was obsessed with the detail but unable to see the whole and this can be seen as one of the reason of his descent into depths, both literally and figuratively).

The bleakness of the novel is masterfully executed; if you would rather read something uplifting this is not the book to pick up! The characters are well supported by the relentless land- and seascape (much of the story is set in the cold season, and most of the summertime is glossed over). But this novel belongs in the European tradition of Ibsen or Dostoyevsky with its dispassionate analysis of a character whose life unravels in front of our very eyes and where practically everyone affected by his actions ends up damaged as well. The strong female characters grow in strength through the story but still remain only schematically, or lightly, drawn in contrast to the centre character. This was the only disappointment for me; otherwise the story made a powerfull impact on me.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
3.0 out of 5 stars Three Stars
Dark, dark, dark novel.
Published 25 days ago by Alan Friedman
3.0 out of 5 stars Three Stars
Great writing, had a hard time with the story.
Published 1 month ago by James N. Pierson
4.0 out of 5 stars Mankell plumbs the depths
Weighed down by stuff which did not add much to the story
Published 2 months ago by john lunn
3.0 out of 5 stars Deep Indeed
Although I respect the intent to reveal human darkness, I think it would have been better as a short story.
Published 3 months ago by PAOS
5.0 out of 5 stars Profound psychological study
as other readers have pointed out, this is unlike the Mankell of the crime novels and if you are looking for that style of writing, keep your fingers from this novel. Read more
Published 3 months ago by Brigitte Mentges
4.0 out of 5 stars Be prepared to defend to the depths
As Mankell can be it was HEAVY. I stuck with it because I love Mankell but it was heavy to the point of being oppressive. It will keep me a fan.
Published 5 months ago by Brenda A. Young
1.0 out of 5 stars Not for me
Terribly disappointing. Not much action and the characters seemed flat.
Published 6 months ago by JoCee
1.0 out of 5 stars I am amazed that this book got published
Unbelievably slow and pointless. I managed to wade through to Page 56, and that was a slog.

This book is an exercise in minimalism, I guess. Read more
Published 7 months ago by Roger Angle
5.0 out of 5 stars Crime and punishment
I believe that Mankell was heavily influenced by the Russians, in particular Crime and punishment, in writing this novel. Read more
Published 8 months ago by Garey C. Durden
2.0 out of 5 stars big disappointment
Although I love Mankell's Wallender mysteries, his novels have so far proved very disappointing, gloomy without any particular point or idea or interesting plot.
Published 8 months ago by rruth kavesh
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