New Review (Toxic)

  • Book: Toxic
  • Location: Oslo, Telemark
  • Author: Helga Flatland

Review Author: Tina Hartas



Toxic by Helga Flatland, novel set in Telemark and Oslo.

I am a fan of this author’s writing and the translator Matt Baguley, does an excellent job of bringing her words to an English-speaking audience. Her style flows and her words, as she puts them together, are really easy and gratifying to read.

The grip of the 2020 pandemic is tightening across Norway, and that forms the background drumbeat as two stories unfold and come together.

The novel opens in Telemark with Johs and Andres, two young men who are running their farm, which has been in the family for a good four centuries. There is a real sense of practised activity, as the cows are milked, the machines are set to work and the overall smooth running of operations is a priority. They are not much bothered by coronavirus, given their remote location. Johs and Andres hunker down, alongside their mother and let the hysteria wash over them. Fiddle playing and starkly delineated characters add to the sense of growing perturbing unease.

In Oslo Mathilde is teaching Norwegian to the older year groups at school and after a misjudged liaison, she finds herself without a job. It so happens that she settles upon the somewhat dilapidated grandparents’ home – which is up for rental  – to spend her time writing a novel. Her biological mother is herself a novelist and now perhaps is the time to try her hand at writing.

The story is like a fleshed-out short story (a good thing) where women are the sirens that underpin society’s ills. And here is a modern day fable of behaviour, dark and destructive, with all the components, mirroring the folktales of yore (which the farming brothers are wont to share). A well written and quick read.

Tina for the TripFiction Team

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