- Paperback: 352 pages
- Publisher: Other Press (April 8, 2014)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1590516672
- ISBN-13: 978-1590516676
- Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.9 x 8.2 inches
- Shipping Weight: 14.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 3.4 out of 5 stars See all reviews (84 customer reviews)
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #334,864 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The Cold Song Paperback – April 8, 2014
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Siri and Jon have always enjoyed their summers on the coast of Norway. Although staying with Siri’s domineering mother can be difficult, the couple has friends there, and the home holds special meaning from Siri’s childhood. That all changes the summer they hire Milla as nanny to their youngest daughter. Milla’s presence adds to the already growing distance between Siri and Jon and unlocks a restlessness in Siri. Then, on the night of a party no one wanted Siri to throw, Milla disappears. Throughout the ensuing search and subsequent murder investigation, the story flits through time, space, and narrators, clearly envisaging the turmoil of all those involved. In her fifth novel, Ullman demonstrates her expertise in inhabiting the minds of complex characters, including Milla’s grieving parents; a neighbor who may have been the last to see Milla alive; Siri’s aging mother; Siri’s elder daughter, who has a violent temper; and, of course, the beleaguered couple, Siri and Jon. Readers who appreciate an unconventional narrative flow will find this a deeply moving story of troubled relationships and unsettled memories. --Cortney Ophoff
A New York Times Book Review Notable Book of 2014
“Ullmann’s voice on the page is a lean, tough-minded thing, scrubbed and scoured of sentimentality straight through to the final, Carveresque pages, in which she pulls off an 11th- hour radiance, a tonal shift from minor to major key. The novel’s charm lies in these idiosyncratic glints, these glimmers of queer wit, uncensored scorn or sudden, unstinting sympathy.” —New York Times Book Review
"Ullmann is very good at evoking the peculiar, charged stasis of a household in which mentally active and intellectually vital people are resolutely failing to communicate with each other—the loneliness of communality, in short. She is a very exact writer, who is unsparing of her characters: a tonic, sharp, lyrical, intelligent novelist who deserves to be better-known in English." —The New Yorker Page-Turner Blog
“Disturbingly tangled and riveting Norwegian fiction…Linn Ullmann’s The Cold Song reads like a cross between a psychological thriller and a grim fairy tale, the kind that takes place in a big house haunted by angry parents, lonely children and secrets ranging from the ordinary to the catastrophic.” —More
"[A] dark, lyrical novel with a firecracker of a beginning...Ullmann...is a forceful, exquisite talent." —Oprah.com
"The fifth novel by an award-winning Norwegian author and critic deserves to win her a much larger stateside readership." —Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
"Intriguing...Ullmann teeters between dark comedy of manners and genuine psychological thriller, but she consistently captures the telling moments in everyday encounters, and writes seductively complex characters." —Publishers Weekly
“A deeply moving story of troubled relationships and unsettled memories.” —Booklist.com
“The Cold Song doesn't so much unfold as it revolves, around the sudden disappearance of Milla, the young and beautiful summer nanny hired to take care of Siri and Jon's two children. The real ‘meat’ of the novel rests in its keen and unflinching exposure of the inner lives of its characters, revealed in brief spurts of narrative that shift back and forth in time. The result is riveting.” —Bookpage
"Ullmann deftly slips beneath the skin of her characters, depicting their wounds and worries in subtle gradations of tone and texture. The Cold Song remains a captivating, hybrid book." —SFGate.com
“In her latest heart-stopper, internationally bestselling author Ullmann, (who lives in Oslo), combines a mysterious murder with a razor-sharp eye for family relationships.” —Reader’s Digest
“In The Cold Song, Linn Ullmann explores the events surrounding a young woman’s murder in brief, haunting flashes that imbue the intimacies and betrayals of family life with the brooding magic of a Grimm’s fairy tale. This delicate, mesmerizing work attests to Ullmann's vast storytelling powers.” —Jennifer Egan, winner of the 2011 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction and the 2010 National Book Critics Circle Award
“The Cold Song is a wonderful book, like a family album made by a photographer who really cares for his subjects….The book has the light but also the weight of a Bergman film. It doesn't offer easy solutions but still has a kind of healing power." —Peter Stamm, finalist for the Man Booker International Prize 2013 and author of We’re Flying and Seven Years
“The Cold Song recounts the unfolding of a large tragedy that has already happened—the mysterious disappearance of Milla, an adolescent girl—while also showing the smaller tragedy of a faltering marriage. Combining the tension of a whodunit with the subtlety of a domestic drama, Ullmann’s riveting novel is measured, impeccably observed, and utterly chilling.” —Rebecca Mead, author of My Life in Middlemarch
"The Cold Song is a fluid, shape-shifting novel, a family saga that turns into an erotically charged drama and then takes a darker turn into the terrain of a murder mystery. Linn Ullmann is an unusually talented and sympathetic writer, able to inhabit a wide range of characters and bring them all vividly to life.” —Tom Perrotta, author of Nine Inches: Stories and The Leftovers
“Contrary to popular belief, a death is not merely an end but the beginning of a story. The death in The Cold Song opens a Pandora’s box of human emotions, conflicts and deceptions. Readers of this novel will be reminded of the joys and complexities of living. Memories, laughter, gestures, trivialities—everything casts a shadow, and nothing leaves us safe. Linn Ullmann has mastered the art of seeing into the dark mysteries that make us who we are.” —Yiyun Li, award-winning author of The Vagrants and Kinder Than Solitude
“Linn Ullmann’s The Cold Song is a haunting novel about all the ways we endeavor to love and be loved, and the many mistakes we can make while trying. It's suspenseful and beautifully written and so absorbing that I could not put it down. When I finished reading it, I remained in a state of awe.” —Vendela Vida, author of The Lovers and Let the Northern Lights Erase Your Name
“[The Cold Song is] a psychological tour de force—not a beat wrong. The ending crept up on me, so quiet and unexpected. It’s a brilliant scene, with everybody locked in character—in the huit clos finality of character—and it hits you the minute you put the book down. I stayed up half last night finishing it, and now I’m sitting bleary-eyed at my desk, paying for the pleasure.” —Jane Kramer, author of Europeans and The Politics of Memory
“The Cold Song is a superb psychological mystery and a must for anyone who enjoys the genre. The writing is excellent. The switches between the time of the murder, the discovery of the body, and subsequent developments are many, but they fit together seamlessly. Highly recommended.” —John A. Broussard, I Love A Mystery
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Top Customer Reviews
Siri Brodal is a driven, successful restaurant owner in Norway. She's married to Jon Dreyer, a well-known author who has written two-thirds of a popular trilogy, but can't seem to find the words or inspiration for a third book. Instead he spends his time staring at his computer, sending texts and emails to other women, and then having affairs with them (under the guise of walking the family dog or running errands). Siri knows that Jon is a philanderer, but she hopes that once he finishes his book their relationship might go back to normal, although it is consistently challenged by the erratic behavior of their older daughter, Alma.
In an effort to help Jon finish his book, the couple hires Milla, a young woman, to care for Alma and their younger daughter, Liv, when the family takes a summer holiday to the coast of Norway, where they stay in the mansion owned by Siri's formidable, eccentric mother, Jenny. Jenny and Siri's relationship has always been troubled, especially after the death of Siri's younger brother when he was four and she was six.
Milla's presence causes further friction in everyone's lives, especially as Milla takes an interest in Jon, one he appears to reciprocate. Then one night, during Jenny's 75th birthday, Milla disappears, seemingly without a trace. Although it takes a significant amount of time before her remains are discovered and the truth of what happened to her is revealed, her life—and death—brings to light suspicions and secrets that have remained dormant in many relationships. Both Siri and Jon wonder whether their actions played any part in what happened to Milla, and whether they could have done anything to prevent it from happening.
Linn Ullmann's The Cold Song is an interesting book, in that while there is a murder and that causes a bit of a mystery briefly, it is more of a book about how Milla's disappearance and death impacts the other characters and lays bare the fractures in their relationships. It's a tremendously atmospheric book, and you can almost feel the rain and mist that often surrounds the town where much of the book takes place.
Ullmann does a great job in creating her characters and giving them idiosyncrasies and layering them with complexity. While much of the plot is somewhat familiar, Ullmann's storytelling ability keeps you compelled, interested in finding out what issues will come to light and how the plot will be resolved.