A Year of Orenda – The Seven Doors by Agnes Ravatn (trns Rosie Hedger)

Today is is my absolute pleasure to be joining the blog tour for The Seven Doors, the latest atmospheric and mysterious thriller from author Agnes Ravatn and Orenda Books. The author’s previous novel, The Bird Tribunal, remains one of my favourite books of all time and I was delighted to hear that a new title was on the way. Could the book match my expectations? Well, you can read on to find out. My thanks go to publisher Orenda Books for the advance copy for review and to Anne Cater of Random Things Tours for inviting me to be a part of the celebrations. Here’s what the book is all about:

Source: Advance Reader Copy

About the Book

When the tenant of a house that university professor Nina owns with her doctor husband goes missing after an uncomfortable visit, Nina starts her own investigation … with deeply disturbing results. The long-awaited new thriller from the bestselling author of The Bird Tribunal.

University professor Nina is at a turning point. Her work seems increasingly irrelevant, her doctor husband is never home, relations with her difficult daughter are strained, and their beautiful house is scheduled for demolition.

When her daughter decides to move into another house they own, things take a very dark turn. The young woman living there disappears, leaving her son behind, the day after Nina and her daughter pay her a visit.

With few clues, the police enquiry soon grinds to a halt, but Nina has an inexplicable sense of guilt. Unable to rest, she begins her own investigation, but as she pulls on the threads of the case, it seems her discoveries may have very grave consequences for her and her family.

Exquisitely dark and immensely powerful, The Seven Doors is a sophisticated and deeply disturbing psychological thriller from one of Norway’s most distinguished voices.

My Thoughts

Who knew that moving home could be so traumatic. I mean, they do say that it is one of the most stressful things a person could do, but there is stressful and then there is this. Stressful Agnes Ravatn style … Forced into a move by a compulsory purchase scheme, life for Nina, and her husband Mads, is complicated enough. When her headstrong daughter, Ingeborg, decides that a bad case of silverfish in her home is reason enough to push for her parents to allow her to move into a house that they own, her arrival on the doorstep with Nina sends their current tennant into a state of shock and almost panic. Understandable given the force of nature that Ingeborg is, but what happens from here on in is both shocking and tinged with mystery and tragedy that no one could have foreseen.

The book is written in Agnes Ravatn’s trademark unique styling, omitting the use of speech marks through meaning that, as a reader, you do find yourself concentrating harder, immersing yourself in the story more, as you work to keep track of where one conversation ends and another thread begins. This worked perfectly in the The Bird Tribunal as it carried that kind for ethereal quality throughout the story, blurring the lines between what was truth and what was fiction. There is a different feel to it this time around, the story set very much in a recognisable and everyday situation, the characters very much present in the moment and in the investigation that ensues when their lodger, Mari, disappears leaving her young son behind.

The story is told primarily from Nina’s point of view as she makes it her mission to discover what really happened to Mari, to uncover some of the mysteries surrounding her life. And there are many mysteries which lead Nina in all manner of directions. We are privy to her thoughts and her fears, to the slow realisation of just how deep those around her are embroiled in the young woman’s disappearance. Nina was a character I warmed to even though she was torn between the need to find the truth and the comfort of remaining in the life, and the house she had always known. That inner turmoil played well on the page, the lack of the quotation marks again masking the lines between where her thoughts ended and her actions began.

The story is full of mystery, and as a reader I was left with a feeling of uncertainty as to whether Mari’s disappearance was by fair means or fowl. There was plenty of doubt cast over many characters within the story, including Mari’s own family, and by the end of the book, aside from Nina I think that suspicion had fallen on almost everyone apart from Mari’s son. There was a kind of tragic inevitability about what came to pass, the final revelations both surprising and strangely expected. Much like The Bird Tribunal we do not see an absolute resolution to the story, more the promise of one, of actions taken that cannot be undone, but leaving readers with the expectation that justice will be served, even if we do not get to see it.

It’s really hard to describe how I felt when I finished this book. For me it perhaps lacked that same mystical, almost dreamlike quality of its predecessor, but it is definitely a story which has stayed on my mind long beyond the final sentence. In part this is because of the atmospheric intensity of the writing, the almost stifled emotions of the characters and claustrophobic quality of the book making its mark once again. The styling is unique and I am not sure that I would be as compelled to read onward had it been attempted by any other writer, but there’s something about the story, the tension and mystery that author infused each chapter with, that triggered that need to know within me that kept be turning the page. And a very worthy well done to translator Rosie Hedger as she has managed to capture all of the authors intent so perfectly that the haunting and unforgettable quality of the narrative shines through.

About the Author

Agnes Ravatn (b. 1983) is an author and columnist. She made her literary debut 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 sjoldisiplin), 2014. In these works Ravatn shows her unique, witty voice and sharp eye for human fallibility. Her second novel, The Bird Tribunal (Fugletribuanlet), 2013, is a strange and captivating story about shame, guilt and atonement. Ravatn received The cultural radio P2’s listener’s prize for this novel, a popular and important prize in Norway, in addition to The Youth’s Critic’s Prize. The Bird Tribunal was also made into a successful play, which premièred in Oslo in 2015.

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Books by Agnes Ravatn

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