© The Financial Times Ltd 2015 FT and 'Financial Times' are trademarks of The Financial Times Ltd.
December 14, 2013 2:00 am
Ashes in My Mouth, Sand in My Shoes, by Per Petterson, translated by Don Bartlett, Harvill Secker RRP£10, 128 pages
Petterson is known for tackling tragic themes: Out Stealing Horses concerns the Nazi occupation of his native Norway; In the Wake explores the legacy of a real-life ferry accident. His fine debut, first published in 1987 but only now available in English, proves somewhat lighter in tone than his later work, and is shot through with a tender, nostalgic quality.
Told from the perspective of Arvid Jansen, a child living in a working-class district in 1960s Oslo, the narrative takes the form of a series of vignettes: we learn of Arvid’s skirmishes with the school bullies, his bewildered eavesdropping on the lives of adults, his obsession with Huckleberry Finn.
At its centre is a touching, father-son relationship, in which a mutual reticence masks a depth of feeling. Foisting boxing matches and fishing trips on his boy to toughen him up, Arvin’s war-veteran dad shows gentleness and vulnerability as Petterson brings the book to an unexpectedly moving conclusion.
Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2015. You may share using our article tools.
Please don't cut articles from FT.com and redistribute by email or post to the web.