Review: the Ice Palace by Tarjei Vesaas

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I tend to read the same stuff over and over again. Detectives, Victorian literature, picture books… I really wanted to broaden my horizon, and I decided to read more translated fiction. I came across this beautiful cover and I was sold!

‘She was close to the edge now: the ice laid its hand upon her’

The schoolchildren call it the Ice Palace: a frozen waterfall in the Norwegian fjords transformed into a fantastic structure of translucent walls, sparkling towers and secret chambers. It fascinates two young girls, lonely Unn and lively Siss, who strike up an intense friendship. When Unn decides to explore the Ice Palace alone and doesn’t return, Siss must try to cope with the loss of her friend without succumbing to a frozen world of her own making.

This book is absolutely beautiful. The book feels like a rainy, autumn afternoon. It’s beautiful, quiet, a sadness with happiness. It’s really short, 144 pages, but it has so much story in such few pages. It doesn’t feel rushed, the relationships don’t feel rushed (even though they are!), everything is really slow, without being boring. I wish I could explain into words how this book made me feel, as it’s just unlike any other book I have ever read.

The perspective is from Unn and Siss, they are both 11 years old, and the emotions they feel actually feel like they are 11. Too many books written by adults for adults, with children as their main characters, write them too old and too wise to be realistic, this book isn’t like that at all.

It isn’t a spoiler, as it IS said in the description of the book, but the book isn’t explicit about Unn’s disappearance. We are with her when it happens, but it isn’t told in a “she knows” way. We know what’s happening as the reader, but Unn herself doesn’t know she’s slowly freezing. I really appreciate that, as I don’t like explicit scenes when children are involved, even if they are fictional. Don’t be worried about the disappearence of Unn, the book is way too subtle to describe anything gruesome!

This book is beautiful, and I really recommend it. It’s become one of my favourites this year. I gave this book 5 stars on Goodreads, and you can get your copy here!

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