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Showing 1-10 of 66 reviews(Verified Purchases). See all 87 reviews
on May 5, 2014
This is a novel with the account of the disappearance and murder of a young au pair at it's heart. But the young girl's disappearance and the discovery of her body in a small Norwegian seaside resort does not define the book. It's the murders effect on everyone in the girls life that is central like the ripples caused by a stone dropped in a pond. Jon and Siri are the girls employers, she looks after their two small girls Alma and Liv while Siri runs her restaurant and Jon, an author suffering from writer's block, ostensibly writes his new novel. They live with Siri's authoritative mother Jenny in her big White House on the hill for the Summer. There are multiple tensions in the family, financial concerns, Jon's rampant infidelity, Siri's resentment of her strong willed mother who is off the wagon drinking for the first time in decades. All seems to come to a head the night Milla goes missing from Jenny's seventy fifth birthday. Her disappearance and the discovery of her body by a group of young boys receives endless press coverage and the lives of the family finally start to completely unravel. I have read other books by Nordic authors and have found some sterile and cold in tone in style. The prose of this piece is spare as well but the depth of it's character development and it's rich sometimes almost humorous tone make it much more readable. The translator of this piece seems to have preserved the author's original voice. It is a fascinating character study with a tense plot, a great summer read.
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on May 20, 2017
I knew that Liv Ullmann and Ingmar Bergman had a daughter, but I never knew what became of her until I looked her up one day and found that she is a successful novelist. Considering her immensely talented parents, I was impressed that Linn had built her own artistic life. I found her books on Amazon and immediately noticed that these books seemed typically modern - dysfunctional marriages, perverse sexuality, miserable children. I usually avoid this stuff, but decided to give The Cold Song a try. I am really sorry that I did and had to quit one hundred pages from the end because I knew I wouldn't be able to get the looming misery out of my mind if I continued.

Linn is an excellent and capable writer, but the story line is as bleak and awful and untrusting of humanity as so many of her father's films. I certainly don't need a pollyanna view of the world, but this endless focus on humanity's worst qualities is bad for us. Yup, there are bad, crummy people in the world and studying them in microscopic detail does nothing for us. We need examples of heroic virtue and goodness to help us aspire to be the best of ourselves for each other. In the end, Linn Ulmann is her father's daughter. Spend your money on a better book.
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on May 7, 2014
It's amazing how destructive secrets and assumptions can be.

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.
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on May 25, 2014
The Cold Song opens as a well-written, well-observed mystery: During an expedition to recover a buried "treasure" a trio of young boys stumble on the remains of a girl who disappeared from their seas-side community two years earlier. One of them was among the last people to see the girl, Milla alive -- and the circumstances . The childhood codes of honor, and the adult culture of secrecy and suppression that web the small community are effectively evoked and create just the kind of sense of foreboding you expect from an intelligent if formulaic murder story; but they also serve Ullman's psychological exploration of the weight and legacy of guilt - familial, professional , and criminal. The story moves back in time and the focus soon changes to the troubled family for whom Milla had been serving as a nanny when she disappeared and never recaptures the tension and urgency of the opening chapter but Ullmann's unsparing portrait of the marriage at the center of the story is finely wrought, and serves as a prism through which to look at the murder from various psychological perspectives.
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on June 22, 2014
For those who haven't read Alice Munro stories--hey, she won the Nobel Prize for Literature this past time--you wouldn't see the similiarities in styles. I have read the negative reviews (some are hardly reviews!) and appreciate that this oblique style isn't necessarily an easy one to adapt to. The reader isn't always aware of just where the story is, but a nuanced reading (and I don't mean a slow reading) is all that is needed.
The story takes place in two places in Norway, in Oslo and a more remote place where the central characters go for the summer. Jenny is now 75, and her daughter, Siri, is giving her a large party, one that Jenny's doesn't want. The back story is simple: these two women dislike each other. Jenny blames Siri for neglecting her young brother when they were children, resulting in his drowning. And there's been no forgiveness. Siri is married to a novelist, Jon, a womanizer, who is stuck as he attempts (or doesn't) the third part of a trilogy. They have two children: Alma (with some significant emotional issues) and Liv. Siri owns and serves as the chef in one of her two restaurants. These are the main characters except for Milla, a teenager who has been hired as an au pair for the summer. She disappears. (No more information because that would be a spoiler.)
The family unravels in the novel. And as for the criticism that there are too many characters to keep track of, that just isn't true. There are other characters including Milla's parents as well as neighbors, all of whom play a role in the mystery surrounding the disappearance of Milla on the night of the unwanted party.
I think this is a brilliant novel. And highly recommend it.
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on May 7, 2014
I was fascinated by Linn Ullmann's novel and looked forward to being transported into her world every time I sat down to resume reading The Cold Song, but not for the usual reasons you might read a mystery. Yes, there is a murder here, but it's nearly a secondary subplot. The real thrumming tension in this book comes from the family dynamics. Ullmann presents a family's breakdown better than almost any other contemporary literary writer, with real shadows of grief and some supremely dark humor in this book that reminded me a lot of early John Updike. As an added plus for me as a writer, there were probably the best descriptions of a writer suffering extreme writer's block that I've stumbled across anywhere. She's also a master of point-of-view shifts, even granting the dog his say for some comic moments, and you know what? I bought right into that perspective and I usually detest talking animals in novels. I can't even hate Ullmann for being beautiful, because her writing is so brilliant.
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on August 3, 2014
Very engrossing and complex. Really enjoyed reading this book. What I liked best was the way the characters were brought into focus so that one would be the center of attention, then another. After I finished the book I found myself weaving the threads together to find closure to the story. I prefer authors who don't "spoon feed" the story and make everything too neat and tidy because that lacks the com
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on May 22, 2014
"The Cold Song" is smoothly-written, not (as in some cases of translated works) a difficult slog full of unpronounceable names. But I found the characters to be unpleasant, and in most cases I did not feel bad for them when they faced hardship.. Even the one I found most sympathetic, restaurant owner Siri, acted alarmingly crazy sometimes. The professional reviews sound great, which was why I tried the novel in the first place. But now I'm sorry I spent a week reading it at night. On the bright side, it did not keep me from sleeping...
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on June 26, 2014
It seemed to start slow and I was getting impatient with this book when all at once it grabbed me and I was reading late into the night, completely entranced. What's more, I couldn't stop thinking about the characters and their stories, even after I'd finished the book.

It seems important to ask who is guilty when an innocent person is murdered. In this case, there appear to be more than one accomplice.
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on June 6, 2014
I finished this book only because my book club was going to be discussing it. It hinted at the possibility of characters that could have been interesting, but didn't put enough into the character development. The plot seemed to flop around from the young girl and her strangeness, to the parents' inability to establish a solid home life, to the missing girl…and then left you wondering what the book was really all about. The one thing it did make the reader do was question the ending and what the author was attempting to say.
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