- Book: The Sixteen Trees of the Somme
- Location: Norway, Shetland Islands, The Somme
- Author: Lars Mytting
The Sixteen Trees of the Somme is the epic story of three families. These are the Hirifjells from Saksum, a small village near Lillehammer in central Norway, the Winterfinchs from Edinburgh and the Shetlands, and the Daireaux from Authuille, a hamlet fought over in the WW1 Battle of the Somme. The story is set in the present day, but spans most of the past 100 years.
Edvard was orphaned in 1971 when he was three. He was brought up by his grandfather, Bestefar, on a remote farm outside Saksum. Over the years he developed into a first rate potato farmer. Then Bestefar dies. Going through the papers after his death, Edvard discovers clues as to his past and what may have happened to his parents. He has to find closure. He leaves behind his girlfriend, Hanne, and heads for the Shetlands in pursuit of Bestefar’s ‘long lost’ brother, Einar. There he becomes involved with Gwen Winterfinch and, eventually, travels with her to Authuille where the circumstances of his parents deaths are revealed. The lives of the Hirifjells, the Winterfinchs, and the Daireaux have been, and are, inexorably interwoven. The plot is complex, and the denouement is possibly unexpected.
A good and moving story in itself, but it is in the manner of the telling that The Sixteen Trees of the Somme really excels. The use of language is quite beautiful (and a great credit to the translator as well as the author). The tales of the WW1 battles and the WW2 concentration camps are more than moving. But it is in some of the detail that the book really makes its mark… The use of flame birch and walnut in fine woodworking, and (in TripFiction terms) the beautifully painted pictures of the Norwegian farm, the isolation of the islands of Unst and Haaf Gruney in the Shetlands, and the empathy with Authuille. All are real places that are vividly brought to life. Yes, The Sixteen Trees of the Somme is a mystery, but it is a great deal more. It establishes Lars Mytting as one of the great Norwegian storytellers.