Tuesday 9 January 2024

The Guests by Agnes Ravatn BLOG TOUR #TheGuest #AgnesRavatn t. @rosie_hedger @OrendaBooks #BookReview #TranslatedFiction


It started with a lie…

 Married couple Karin and Kai are looking for a pleasant escape from their busy lives, and reluctantly accept an offer to stay in a luxurious holiday home in the Norwegian fjords.

 Instead of finding a relaxing retreat, however, their trip becomes a reminder of everything lacking in their own lives, and in a less-than-friendly meeting with their new neighbours, Karin tells a little white lie…

 Against the backdrop of the glistening water and within the claustrophobic walls of the ultra-modern house, Karin’s insecurities blossom, and her lie grows ever bigger, entangling her and her husband in a nightmare spiral of deceits with absolutely no means of escape…

 Simmering with suspense and dark humour, The Guests is a gripping psychological drama about envy and aspiration … and something more menacing, hiding just below that glittering surface…

The Guests by Agnes Ravatn is published in paperback by Orenda Books on 18 January 2024, and is translated from Norwegian by Rosie Hedger. My thanks to the publisher who sent my copy for review as part of this blog tour.

I have been a fan of this author since I read her first book published by Orenda; The Bird Tribunal in September 2016. This was followed in 2020 by The Seven Doors, another wonderful read. I have been eagerly awaiting this latest and can assure you that I've not been disappointed.

Ravatn writes short books, but writes with such precision and beauty that no more words are required. This is something of a 'quiet' book, gently unfurling and exposing the lead characters to their fullest. 

Karin and Kai are married with two young boys. When Karin bumps into Iris, a person from her past, she is reluctant to interact, but as we come to find out, Karin is a people-pleaser, she puts aside her initial feelings and does what she thinks she should do, rather than what she really wants to do. Iris offers them the use of her cabin to take a short break. In exchange, carpenter Kai will fix up the jetty outside. Although reluctant, Karin agrees.

The cabin is so much more than just a holiday home. Iris is obviously very successful and her holiday home is full of luxury. Looking around and seeing such wealth just increases Karin's feelings of worthlessness, and instead of embracing the opportunity, she broods and thinks far too much about her own life compare to that of Iris.

Out walking, Karin come across Per; a neighbour and also an author. Once again, Karin feels inferior and tells a lie about her circumstances. This lie will make life very difficult for her and Kai during their stay. 

Ravatn excels in bringing ordinary characters to life, those who could be dull and drab seem to vibrate with life as she exposes their inner feelings, even whilst they are carrying out the most mundane of tasks.  Karin is a complicated, often unlikeable character who has carried a feeling of inferiority around with her since childhood. She finds it difficult to accept that having a loving family, and a roof over her head can bring happiness, she is always searching for more. Comparing and contrasting, trying to appear better, wealthier, happier, and it is this that is her downfall. 

Full of understated tension, with flashes of the darkest humour, the story pulsates with menace. The atmospheric setting alongside the Norwegian Fjords adds depth and a certain sense of bleakness to the plot. Recommended by me

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: rosiehedger.com and follow her on Twitter @rosie_hedger

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