Thursday 30 July 2020

The Seven Doors by Agnes Ravatn #TheSevenDoors @OrendaBooks Translated by Rosie Hedger @rosie_hedger #NordicNoir

University professor Nina is at a turning point. Her work seems increasingly irrelevant, her doctor husband is never home, relations with her difficult daughter are strained, and their beautiful house is scheduled for demolition.
When her daughter decides to move into another house they own, things take a very dark turn. The young woman living there disappears, leaving her son behind, the day after Nina and her daughter pay her a visit.
With few clues, the police enquiry soon grinds to a halt, but Nina has an inexplicable sense of guilt. Unable to rest, she begins her own investigation, but as she pulls on the threads of the case, it seems her discoveries may have very grave consequences for her and her family.
Exquisitely dark and immensely powerful, The Seven Doors is a sophisticated and deeply disturbing psychological thriller from one of Norway’s most distinguished voices.

The Seven Doors by Agnes Ravatn was published in ebook by Orenda Books on 17 July 2020, the paperback will be released on 17 September. My thanks to the publisher who sent my copy for review.

The Seven Doors is translated from the Norwegian by Rosie Hedger.

It's almost four years since I read Agnes Ravatn's The Bird Tribunal. That's a book that has stayed with me over those years, and one that I regularly recommend. It was with much anticipation, and a little trepidation that I began to read The Seven Doors.

Oh my goodness, this is one incredibly talented author. Once more, she delves into the deepest recesses of a modern family, and slowly but surely unpicks the hidden, and tightly woven secrets that are beginning to emerge.

Nina and her husband have been married for many years, they live in Nina's childhood home. They are both professional people; Nina is a Professor of Literature at the University whilst her husband Mads works in medicine, as well as having a place on the local Council. It is this Council that is causing distress for Nina as the story starts. Their home; her childhood home; a place filled with memories of family life is to be destroyed, to make way for a new development. Whilst Nina is very sad, she is resigned to the fact that they must find a new place to live; it feels like a massive task.

Mads inherited a house in Birkeveien from his aunt, and whilst Nina doesn't want to live there, her daughter Ingeborg and her small family really do want the house. Currently rented out to a young single mother, Ingeborg has no hesitation in visiting and informing the tenant that she must leave.

A few days later, the tenant, Mari Nilson, disappears. After Ingeborg's visit, Mari packed her things and returned to her parents, along with her four year old son. Within a couple of days, she was gone.

Ravatn tells her story with care and precision. Not one word is wasted, from her cleverly created characters, to the wild and harsh Norwegian landscape, everything is beautifully presented. Her characters are incredibly flawed, especially daughter Ingeborg, and whilst the reader doesn't actually hear from Mari, she becomes a larger than life character who is expertly and colourfully presented, through her parents memories and through snippets told in newspapers and by people who did know her.

Whilst The Seven Doors is undoubtedly a psychological thriller, with a lingering air of menace and mystery, it is also a tender and quite compulsive study of a family who appear, on the face of it, to be highly respectable, yet have layers of hidden secrets. The effects of those hidden truths are incredibly powerful, turning both the story and the family upside down.

Ravatn increases the tension, chapter by chapter and the backdrop of the bleak, harsh Norway countryside adds so much depth to the story; Nina battles against the weather almost as much as she battles with the truths that she begins to expose. The writing is skilled and the plotting seems effortless, yet is so dramatic, leading the reader to the final, shocking reveal.

Rosie Hedger's translation is expertly done, allowing the author to retain her unique style and voice. This is another first class Nordic Noir story from one of the finest story tellers out there. I only hope that I don't have to wait another four years for the next one.

Highly recommended.

Agnes Ravatn (b. 1983) is an author and columnist. 
She made her literary début with the novel Week 53 (Veke 53) in 2007. 
Since then she has written three critically acclaimed and award-winning essay collections: Standing still (Stillstand), 2011, Popular Reading (Folkelesnad), 2011, and Operation self-discipline (Operasjon sjøldisiplin), 2014. 
In these works Ravatn shows her unique, witty voice and sharp eye for human fallibility. Ravatn received the Norwegian radio channel radio NRK P2 Listener’s Novel Prize for this novel, a popular and important prize in Norway, in addition to the Youth Critic’s Award for The Bird Tribunal which also made into a successful play, and premiered in Oslo in 2015.

Rosie Hedger was born in Scotland and completed her MA (Hons) in Scandinavian Studies at the University of Edinburgh. 

She has lived and worked in Norway, Sweden and Denmark, and now lives in York where she works as a freelance translator. 
Rosie was a candidate in the British Center for Literary Translation’s mentoring scheme for Norwegian in 2012, mentored by Don Bartlett.

Visit her website: and follow her on Twitter @rosie_hedger 

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