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30 review for Will and Testament: A Novel (Verso Fiction)

  1. 5 out of 5

    Paltia

    The first 84 pages of this book were close to mind numbing. It was as if the author was reciting a mantra about her father’s final will to calm herself. As each page melted into the next there were small hints revealed as to where the story was headed. By page 84 the narrator is angry. She’s hammering out emails to her younger sisters calling them on their self righteousness. She forms an alliance with her brother as the family unravels. Something is terribly wrong. The narrator has voluntarily The first 84 pages of this book were close to mind numbing. It was as if the author was reciting a mantra about her father’s final will to calm herself. As each page melted into the next there were small hints revealed as to where the story was headed. By page 84 the narrator is angry. She’s hammering out emails to her younger sisters calling them on their self righteousness. She forms an alliance with her brother as the family unravels. Something is terribly wrong. The narrator has voluntarily estranged herself from all but her brother. There are, she tells us, situations which can’t be balanced out, talked over and round. You must pick a side. She finds herself at home in the winter darkness. This darkness erases her and the forest shields everything in a protective cloak. Seated on a downed tree she watches her dog running. The snow begins to fall. In these moments she feels fine and light. For a time, albeit brief, she is without pain. What follows is her endless examination and exploration of her state of mind. Whichever road she travels she is met with dead ends and distressing flashbacks. Ever so slowly she reveals her past. Repressed memories have the effect of a time bomb that ticks quietly but never harmlessly. We learn of her attempts to make an emotional getaway through psychoanalysis. Other times the memories are buried more deeply. Like a series of land mines that might lay dormant, if only. There are many moments of if only for the narrator. As if on a seesaw she will be confidently high at the top with her truth only to be cruelly dropped to the ground when called a liar. Up and down she rides. This is a brutal narrative full of anger, hate, doubt and self recriminations. Self esteem is eroded. Her close friend, husband and children offer support. It circles back round to a question of balance. Can anything or anyone counteract the toxicity of her sisters, mother and yes, father? The narrator exists in a prism of hate. Her past is all pervasive. There is no way to compartmentalise. There is no luxury of denial. There is survival even when adrift in the unpredictable waters of memory. I experienced an involuntary shudder and released a deep sigh when I read the last page. The contents weighed on me for some time.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Barbara

    3.5 stars This book, set in Norway, revolves around the unresolved childhood trauma of a middle-aged woman named Bergljot. Bergljot is a divorced theater critic with three grown children who's been estranged from her parents and sisters for decades. Bergljot is drawn back into her family's orbit when her brother Bård, who's also alienated from their parents, contacts her about an inheritance. Bergljot and Bård's parents bequeathed their two vacation cabins to their daughters Astrid and Åsa instea 3.5 stars This book, set in Norway, revolves around the unresolved childhood trauma of a middle-aged woman named Bergljot. Bergljot is a divorced theater critic with three grown children who's been estranged from her parents and sisters for decades. Bergljot is drawn back into her family's orbit when her brother Bård, who's also alienated from their parents, contacts her about an inheritance. Bergljot and Bård's parents bequeathed their two vacation cabins to their daughters Astrid and Åsa instead of to all four siblings. Bård is deeply hurt and angry, and wants something done about this injustice. The parents say that their wills are structured so that Bård and Bergljot receive monetary compensation for the cabins, and that all four children - Bård, Bergljot, Astrid, and Åsa - will inherit equally in the end. However Bård insists the cabins have been undervalued....and besides, he and his grown children might want to vacation there in the future. Bergljot sides with her brother, and a family imbroglio ensues. It's not clear why the parents start this brouhaha, but the (seemingly) spiteful act may relate to Bård and Bergljot's distance from the family. In Bergljot's case, she's separated from her parents and sisters because they don't believe allegations she made about being harmed as a child. Bergljot thinks they're being willfully obtuse and can't bear to be in their company. Over the years Bergljot's sister Astrid has attempted to broker a reconciliation between Bergljot and the family. Astrid's suggestion is that everyone 'forgive and forget', with no acknowledgement of wrongdoing on anyone's part. Berljot - who wants an admission and an apology - is hurt and infuriated by this proposition. The current family dispute is interspersed with flashbacks to earlier events in Bergljot's life, including her childhood, her work, her marriage, her children, her divorce, etc. The point of the novel seems to be the impossibility of righting a wrong without admitting it happened - and the burden of guilt borne by everyone involved. The publication of this book caused an uproar in Norway because it's said to be based on the life of the author Vigdis Hjorth, who calls the story fiction. Nevertheless, the author's sister Helga Hjorth penned a 'rebuttal book.' You can read about the furor online if you're interested, but wait until after you read the book to avoid spoilers. Author Vigdis Hjorth You can follow my reviews at https://reviewsbybarbsaffer.blogspot....

  3. 4 out of 5

    Katia N

    I've picked up this book because I’ve read A House in Norway by Vigdis Hjorth and it has left a lasting impression on me. As far as I know, only these two of her books have been translated into English. Both books focus on difficult moral dilemmas. And Hjorth investigates them with unflinching honesty and forensic attention to detail, which makes a very thought-provoking compelling read. “The house in Norway” was dealing with a contradictory, often conflicting relationship between a local host a I've picked up this book because I’ve read A House in Norway by Vigdis Hjorth and it has left a lasting impression on me. As far as I know, only these two of her books have been translated into English. Both books focus on difficult moral dilemmas. And Hjorth investigates them with unflinching honesty and forensic attention to detail, which makes a very thought-provoking compelling read. “The house in Norway” was dealing with a contradictory, often conflicting relationship between a local host and her emigrant Polish lodgers. "Will and Testament" addresses more intimate subject matter of the consequences of a repressed childhood trauma and its impact on a large family. The narrator, the women in her 50s, has chosen to estrange herself from her parents and her two younger sisters almost completely for a long time. However, she is dragged into the inheritance dispute after her father’s death. Consequently, she needs to confront her demons once more. The reason for estrangement was that at the age of 30, newly divorced, she suddenly remembered what happened to her when she was a little girl. Or at least she thinks she remembers this. Her memory is unreliable and very painful. Going deeper would be spoiling the book as the core of the novel is her dealing with this situation. Hjorth’s urgent, personal and honest narrative style contributes to the power of the book. Her character is dealing with the family dynamics. She is trying to put yourself in the place of other family members. But she does not try or even pretend to try to be objective. And that is refreshing. There are many themes touched upon in the book which could be discussed. Some of them is hard to talk about without spoiling. But I will just mention one. More often than not, in many situations related to childhood traumas or wider domestic violence, there is no proof of wrong doing. Often, even memories are repressed. So what would be right way of dealing with such situations as a friend or a sibling? How to navigate between the victims and the potential wrongdoers? I do not have a straightforward answer. The book does not give a straightforward answer either that is why I think it is a powerful book. One might argue that as a novel it might be better if it would have the voices of other family members represented separately. Otherwise occasionally the book acquires a slight undertone of a therapeutic confession. However, it is definitely unsentimental and full of authentic raw feelings. A now, the difficult bit. When I finished reading I came across the review in New Statesman claiming that this story is lightly veiled personal story of the author. So, she has done something similar to Knausgård’s A Death in the Family. As a result, her family was distraught about the book. Her sister even wrote a counter novel. However, Hjorth still claims “Will and testament” is totally fictional. I did not know all of this when I was reading the book. Again, the situation is that there is no proof. But the family’s reaction shows that at least there is something personal there. Effectively, she has reversed the situation of a victim-perpetrators conflict on a meta level. So it made me pose and think how this fact affects me as a reader. I have to admit, initially I was slightly disappointed. It would be better if this story would not affect real people and simply pose to universal questions. But then, deep inside, I think I understand her motives and can sympathise with them.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Tanja Berg

    The truth is I didn't like it. I've spent several days trying to not read. Yet there's been such spectacular fuss around this book here in Norway - for its semi autobiographical content - that I had to finish. Ugh. I could have just left it after 50 pages, when I first started wondering whether it was worth it, for all it gave me. A waste of time and patience. The book starts with an argument over the inheritance of two summer cottages and descends into washing the family's dirty laundry so to s The truth is I didn't like it. I've spent several days trying to not read. Yet there's been such spectacular fuss around this book here in Norway - for its semi autobiographical content - that I had to finish. Ugh. I could have just left it after 50 pages, when I first started wondering whether it was worth it, for all it gave me. A waste of time and patience. The book starts with an argument over the inheritance of two summer cottages and descends into washing the family's dirty laundry so to speak. The main character is neurotic and still suffering after a childhood trauma. The writing moves forward in circles, with endless repetitions. I did not care for the style. I did not care for any of the characters. If it is true that some of this content is from the author's own life, then I am totally creeped out. Who on earth would want to throw their skeletons out in the yard for all to see?! I'm not going to read anything more of this author in a hurry, probably never.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Paul Fulcher

    I tapped Lars on the shoulder and asked if I could read something to him. He looked at me, hoping it didn’t have anything to do with inheritance. Will and Testament translated by Charlotte Barslund from Arv og miljø by Vigdis Hjorth was recently longlisted for the 2019 National Book Awards for Translated Literature. The novel starts with the first person narrator, Bergljot, telling us how her Dad died five months earlier, just days after she had herself become embroiled in a dispute between her b I tapped Lars on the shoulder and asked if I could read something to him. He looked at me, hoping it didn’t have anything to do with inheritance. Will and Testament translated by Charlotte Barslund from Arv og miljø by Vigdis Hjorth was recently longlisted for the 2019 National Book Awards for Translated Literature. The novel starts with the first person narrator, Bergljot, telling us how her Dad died five months earlier, just days after she had herself become embroiled in a dispute between her brother and her two younger sisters about their parent's wills. We soon learn that Bergljot (who has grandchildren and must be in her mid to late 50s) broke off contact with her parents over twenty years earlier. The story of the inheritance takes us into rather familiar, even banal, territory, with arguments about who was the favoured child, who has done most for their parents, and lawyer's letters over whether two vacation cabins were transferred to the younger siblings at a fair market price, or essentially gifted to them. Hjorth has a sharp eye for how the apparently trivial can escalate into fury: I did regret my angry night-time emails ... I was hurt that Astrid dismissed them as trivial, read or unread, because my furious night-time emails were the most truthful, and I regretted them only because I had learned that speaking the truth was against the rules, that speaking the truth would get you punished. But it becomes clear that the dispute is a proxy for something far more serious, and in particular the truth that Bergljot wants to speak is an almost unspeakable trauma buried in her childhood (when she was aged 5-7), one that she herself only acknowledges in her late twenties: If she had heard the story, as she must have done, from Mum and Dad, who needed to explain my absence, then it was their version that she would know and I had no idea what that was like, but I presumed it was about my overactive imagination, which I'd always had as a child, how good I was at making things up and telling tales, as well as me probably wanting someone to blame for my unhappiness, my outrageous behaviour, my divorce, or it was something a therapist had planted in me, the possibilities were endless. The narrator chooses to confront her family with the truth of what she believes happened to her at the reading of her father's will, a confrontation she herself admits rather follows the pattern of the film Festen (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Festen). But, while admiring the film, she points out that it is unrealistic: in real life it doesn’t end well for anyone who confronts their father and family. Psychotherapy was important to Bergljot in uncovering her past, and Freud, Jung and her own dreams feature heavily in the text, as well as musings on art and literature. She quotes extensively from Tove Ditlevsen's words (coincidentally her The Copenhagen Trilogy has been recently reissued in translation and is gaining rave reviews e.g. https://www.newstatesman.com/tove-dit...), and she also refers to the Marina Abramovic's infamous Rhythm 0 piece of performance art (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rhythm_0), which the author has cited as a key inspiration for the novel: https://pentransmissions.com/2017/06/... My last novel, Arv og miljø is the most political, and has caused a big debate in Norway. In it, I tried to mirror one of Marina Abramovic’s first performances. Abramovic is supposed to stand still for six hours. On the table in front of her are a lot of things: a rose, a feather a gun. The public can do whatever they want with those objects. In the beginning the public is very discreet. Then they take the feather. But suddenly one breaks the intimacy border and touches her. They get caught up and rile each other up. They take her clothes off. In the end it develops in a very bad way. One takes the gun, takes it to her head. They are so provoked by the fact that she doesn’t move. Then, when after six hours she does move, they retreat. When talking about this performance, Abramovic said, ‘They couldn’t stand me because of what they had done to me.’ That’s also why the family can’t stand the main character in Arv og miljø.Although it must be acknowledged that the big debate in Norway was largely around whether the work, which Hjorth claims as fictional, may actually be factual, or at least hinting at this, as many details of Bergljot's story mirror Hjorth's own. And in a bizarre twist, her real-life sister, recognising herself in the Astrid character, wrote her own counter novel Fri vilje. As the New Yorker explains (https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/20...In 2017, Vigdis Hjorth’s younger sister, Helga Hjorth, published her first novel, “Free Will.” https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/3.... A lawyer in Oslo, Helga is ostensibly the levende model—“living model”—for Astrid, the maddeningly evenhanded sibling in “Will and Testament.” In Helga’s novel, a family is torn apart when the narrator’s histrionic writer sibling makes false allegations of incest in one of her books. In the press, Helga explained that she felt badly used by her sister’s novel, and that she had written her own as a rebuttal.Which all makes this a novel that can be read on two levels - ideally the reader would approach it without knowledge of the real-life arguments, and indeed without advanced knowledge of the source of Bergljot's trauma - and this would be a powerful fictional portrayal of family disputes, trauma, guilt, silence and complicity. But given the publicity around the novel in the press, even in the UK & US, that is perhaps not possible, but then the real-life story around the book gives the story another, fascinating dimension. A very worthy inclusion in what is proving an excellent longlist for the National Book Awards for Translated Literature, and a book I expect to see feature in the International Booker in the UK. An good 4 star read.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Paul Ataua

    Pomegranates were pretty rare in my area when I was a child, but whenever my mother came across them at the market, she would bring a couple home for me and my brother. As we know, the pomegranate has very small seeds surrounded with a juicy red pulp that is so delicious, but getting to that heavenly center requires a great deal of effort forcing your way through the tough thick peel and the flesh that covers it. ‘Will and Testament’ is a pomegranate of a book. At the center is a special and not Pomegranates were pretty rare in my area when I was a child, but whenever my mother came across them at the market, she would bring a couple home for me and my brother. As we know, the pomegranate has very small seeds surrounded with a juicy red pulp that is so delicious, but getting to that heavenly center requires a great deal of effort forcing your way through the tough thick peel and the flesh that covers it. ‘Will and Testament’ is a pomegranate of a book. At the center is a special and not to be missed story of abuse, but it is surrounded by what seems an endless family fight over who is going to inherit the two island summer houses. It is an inheritance struggle that soon becomes uninteresting, drags on and on, and requires a major effort to get through. That effort, however, does end in a reward worth the struggle.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Anna Marie

    this novel is about child sexual abuse [and this review is also about that] [and i would say includes emotional abuse and alcohol/addiction too]. i'm not sure how public i want to be about my response to this novel on goodreads lol but i would like that say that in a few/some/many/too many ways this novel is about me and my family, about the winding conflicts and the repetitive, painful conversations. the way the family narrative perpetuates itself through each of us, creating roles, hiding trut this novel is about child sexual abuse [and this review is also about that] [and i would say includes emotional abuse and alcohol/addiction too]. i'm not sure how public i want to be about my response to this novel on goodreads lol but i would like that say that in a few/some/many/too many ways this novel is about me and my family, about the winding conflicts and the repetitive, painful conversations. the way the family narrative perpetuates itself through each of us, creating roles, hiding truths. the pain of living with sexual abuse, the pain of having a family that does not/refuses to/misunderstands is all in the pages and i was deeply moved and experienced my life within them. it is a joy and a terror to find novels about the violence i and others have experienced because to know i'm not alone is a gift and to know i'm not alone is deeply deeply sad, deeply enraging. it is too late for us in so many ways and the violences we have experienced [and continue to experience] should never have happened - but it did and now we have to [unfairly] deal with the consequences. the way the narrative is written and the structure of this book i thought was so accurate and relatable in terms of the way that time works, memory works, the thought processes of a traumatised adult who is still deeply affected by the past. within the first few pages i had cried out of feeling like it was a mirror and within those first few pages it's very clear that vigdis has experienced the violence she writes about. glad i finished this this yr. anyway i love u xxx

  8. 5 out of 5

    Ellen Springelkamp

    This was hard to get through for me. Even though the premise of the novel looked interesting, the style of writing was tedious. I felt like the author just randomly jotted down her feelings jumping back and forth in time, and forgetting she already wrote certain things. The repetitiveness was bizarre. Even in the same paragraph the same things were being said. Example: ‘ I could not sleep. I laid awake. I could not sleep because of this and that. I could not sleep‘ etc etc. Well I could definite This was hard to get through for me. Even though the premise of the novel looked interesting, the style of writing was tedious. I felt like the author just randomly jotted down her feelings jumping back and forth in time, and forgetting she already wrote certain things. The repetitiveness was bizarre. Even in the same paragraph the same things were being said. Example: ‘ I could not sleep. I laid awake. I could not sleep because of this and that. I could not sleep‘ etc etc. Well I could definitely sleep after reading this book. YAWN

  9. 4 out of 5

    Lia

    The “will” in the title is obviously referring to the legal documents of inheritance, of which lineage gets what, which is to be settled with testimonies competing for sympathetic witnesses. But I suspect it also refers to the messy contest of human wills. This is a Freudian account of secrets, impulses, transgressions, betrayals, sexual competitions, which is ostensibly about a family passing around a shameful secret, but it’s also sneakily superimposed onto the mass madness of post-enlightenmen The “will” in the title is obviously referring to the legal documents of inheritance, of which lineage gets what, which is to be settled with testimonies competing for sympathetic witnesses. But I suspect it also refers to the messy contest of human wills. This is a Freudian account of secrets, impulses, transgressions, betrayals, sexual competitions, which is ostensibly about a family passing around a shameful secret, but it’s also sneakily superimposed onto the mass madness of post-enlightenment civilizations in war, conflict, occupation, aggression, and other atrocities. I’m not always receptive to Freudian psychoanalysis, and the sense that some novels offer mere voyeuristic pleasure through exploiting the kind of human dramas that are better kept private has been snowballing for me personally. I did think this isn’t something I have to worry about, it’s just other people’s family melodrama. But the superimposition of raw impulses in personal life onto international relations is really well done. However awful and voyeuristic and transgressive I feel about the subject matter on the surface (childhood sexual abuse, incest), the betrayal dynamics is human, emotional, relatable, which serves to make the social commentary side more human, experiential. On second thought, this isn’t just other people’s problem, we are probably still laboring under the same delusion of high-civilization and enlightened self-interests, and the solution probably isn’t going to be found in the “become a better saint” bucket, it’s probably closer to “how to live with being awful and try to get along.”

  10. 5 out of 5

    Sam

    First, I suggest you read the book without checking reviews or blurbs because I felt my reading experience spoiled with the short descriptions I saw. If you have had a preview, stick with the book, since the second half is more rewarding than the first, if their has been a spoiler revealed. Second, if you must read a review, Check out Paul Fulcher's: https://www.goodreads.com/review/show... He stated better all of what I planned to say plus more. This leaves me only to add that I found myself que First, I suggest you read the book without checking reviews or blurbs because I felt my reading experience spoiled with the short descriptions I saw. If you have had a preview, stick with the book, since the second half is more rewarding than the first, if their has been a spoiler revealed. Second, if you must read a review, Check out Paul Fulcher's: https://www.goodreads.com/review/show... He stated better all of what I planned to say plus more. This leaves me only to add that I found myself questioning the veracity of the narrator in this book. I did not see this as an intended unreliable narrator, but saw reason for question in the actions and words that suggested a possible imagined truth. I do not know if this was intentionally suggest by the author but it kept me engrossed and added another dimension to the novel.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Guillaume Morissette

    I thought this was an outstanding novel that picks up momentum as you read & builds up to a scene around the halfway point that threw my jaw on the floor & left it there for a while. I thought this was an outstanding novel that picks up momentum as you read & builds up to a scene around the halfway point that threw my jaw on the floor & left it there for a while.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Tamara Agha-Jaffar

    Will and Testament by Vigdis Hjorth, translated by Charlotte Barslund, is the first-person narrative of Bergljot, a woman in her fifties who has been estranged from her family for over two decades. An inheritance dispute and the death of her father forces Bergljot to interact with her family. Every interaction with them dredges up memories of the past as Bergljot struggles to understand her family’s choice of denying the truth of her childhood trauma. The nature of the trauma is alluded to but n Will and Testament by Vigdis Hjorth, translated by Charlotte Barslund, is the first-person narrative of Bergljot, a woman in her fifties who has been estranged from her family for over two decades. An inheritance dispute and the death of her father forces Bergljot to interact with her family. Every interaction with them dredges up memories of the past as Bergljot struggles to understand her family’s choice of denying the truth of her childhood trauma. The nature of the trauma is alluded to but not explicitly stated until Bergljot confronts her family in an open letter after her father’s death. Bergljot was sexually assaulted by her father when she was a child. The assault started when she was five years old and continued for two years. Although she suppressed the memory for many years, it continued to surface in fragments. She was eventually able to piece it together when she was in her twenties and revealed the assault to her family. They reacted to the accusation with virulent hostility. They doubted her, accused her of ingratitude, of having a wild imagination, of behaving aggressively to get attention. They did everything they could to deny her the satisfaction of believing her, effectively pushing her away to silence her. Their denial is a continual source of Bergljot’s frustration. The narrative unfolds in a series of flashbacks and vignettes. Threaded throughout is Bergljot’s raw anger toward her family and her desperate attempts to understand why they denied her truth. She sends angry emails to her sister and then apologizes for them. She shares her frustrations with her husband, children, and friends. Each email or phone call from her mother or sister sends her plummeting into a vortex of anxiety and self-analysis. She narrates her dreams. She cites the words of Freud, Jung, her therapist, various artists, and friends in an effort to understand how childhood trauma has impacted her and why its revelation impacted her family in the way it did. The movement is circular, always rotating around the same issues—why did it happen and why are they denying my truth? Whether it is based on the author’s real life as some have suggested, or whether it is a work of fiction as the author claims it to be, this is a powerful novel illustrating the devastating impact of childhood sexual assault on a victim whose truth has been denied. Unfortunately, it suffers from poor editing and punctuation. It is littered with fused sentences, comma splices, and repetitive sentences. This may be a fault of the translation. Or it may be an effort to reflect the narrator’s trauma as she circles around events, fuses sentences, or repeats them. Either way, it detracts from an otherwise powerful story. In spite of this, the novel is recommended for its exploration of sibling rivalry, parental favoritism, the impact of childhood trauma, and the sacrifices and choices victims and their families make when egregious wrongdoing cannot be proved. My book reviews are also available at www.tamaraaghajaffar.com

  13. 4 out of 5

    Ann Ingebrigtsen

    L-O-V-E-D I-T!

  14. 4 out of 5

    Heleen

    Never finished the book, the fuss about the heritance went on and on, I got bored with the book

  15. 5 out of 5

    Amy

    Somewhere in here is a really good book, but it's drowning in repetition and overwriting.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Christine

    I don't think this book will be for everyone. The style is either going to grab you or not, but I found it good and engrossing. It is really one of the free books I read that really does tackle mental health in a good way.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Tara

    This book wrecked me and I am a better person for it. Thank you for writing it.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Jacqueline

    I have hesitated long before reading "Arv og miljø". There was a long debate about how writers should or should not write about their own experiences. About the boarder between reality and fiction? About the right to violate private lives. I did not read "Arv og miljø". I listened to it. The story is read by Vigdis Hjort herself. I'm astonished. The novel is furious, but wise, painful, but thoughtful. Hjort alternates between depictions of the main character's experiences of her family and philo I have hesitated long before reading "Arv og miljø". There was a long debate about how writers should or should not write about their own experiences. About the boarder between reality and fiction? About the right to violate private lives. I did not read "Arv og miljø". I listened to it. The story is read by Vigdis Hjort herself. I'm astonished. The novel is furious, but wise, painful, but thoughtful. Hjort alternates between depictions of the main character's experiences of her family and philosophical considerations. In her search to understand herself, her parents and siblings, she refers to literature, psychology and philosophy. This gives the story an incredible strength. Hjort's voice makes the story even more intense. One can feel her despair, anger and fear. I recently read Vivian Gornick's "Heftige bånd". Gornick also tells about self-experienced moments of life, about he childhood, about her mother. She has another approach though. Gornick draws precise descriptions of people and surroundings. She does not judge, she does not attempt to interpret the acts and the thoughts. Hjort focuses on explainations. Two different approaches, two powerful stories.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Ryan Jarjoura

    Honestly, I think this is the first book that's made me understand the power of the novel as a medium. The story doesn't ultimately end in catharsis, but neither do most of the struggles in our lives. Throughout this story, we see Bergljot try SO hard to just tell her story and be listened to. The cyclical nature in the story is reminiscent of how we experience our memories in real time--we remember things based on events that trigger the memories. The narrative of our life is not built up linea Honestly, I think this is the first book that's made me understand the power of the novel as a medium. The story doesn't ultimately end in catharsis, but neither do most of the struggles in our lives. Throughout this story, we see Bergljot try SO hard to just tell her story and be listened to. The cyclical nature in the story is reminiscent of how we experience our memories in real time--we remember things based on events that trigger the memories. The narrative of our life is not built up linearly based on a straightforward chronology, but instead it's built up retroactively from our response to life. Maybe I just need to expose myself to more works of fiction, but I was extremely impressed by this book and it has definitely left a big impression on me.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Katherine Kreuter

    Deeply strange but won't let you go. I felt I had to finish it although you get to the end and go 'huh?' The writing style is stark as some instruction-manual, but that I think is the author's intent. I struggled to understand why this was such a best seller until I read more about the author's back story and supposition about how much of this novel is true. But should that make it a great book? Don't think so. Still, the part of the plot centering on family and inheritance is well done and I'm Deeply strange but won't let you go. I felt I had to finish it although you get to the end and go 'huh?' The writing style is stark as some instruction-manual, but that I think is the author's intent. I struggled to understand why this was such a best seller until I read more about the author's back story and supposition about how much of this novel is true. But should that make it a great book? Don't think so. Still, the part of the plot centering on family and inheritance is well done and I'm surprised this doesn't form the basis of more stories.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Gustaf Runius

    Ok, not very exiting or interesting family drama. Persons are more clipboard figures than fully developed characters. Still the topics of relations between siblings and parents, love, rivalry, shame and the question if something really happened are interesting topics. Too bad that the characters are not better, then this might have been a really good book

  22. 5 out of 5

    Harald Kirkerød

    Read it all in one sitting. Couldn't put it down! Powerful stuff.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Chad

    This is such a skillful book, seemingly straightforward at first glance, but the authorial choices made by Hjorth make this book so affecting and worthwhile. I have no doubt that if an American or British writer had attempted to write the same book, it would be absolutely dreadful. And why is that? Is it because the domestic drama genre has become so hollowed out and stale that we can predict the entire narrative and smell the twists from a mile away? Maybe. But I think one thing that Hjorth suc This is such a skillful book, seemingly straightforward at first glance, but the authorial choices made by Hjorth make this book so affecting and worthwhile. I have no doubt that if an American or British writer had attempted to write the same book, it would be absolutely dreadful. And why is that? Is it because the domestic drama genre has become so hollowed out and stale that we can predict the entire narrative and smell the twists from a mile away? Maybe. But I think one thing that Hjorth succeeds in doing is refusing to bend her knee and take the easy and convenient way out--both for the type of story she is telling and for the reader reading it. Her narrator, Bergljot, is refreshingly human, messy and complicated, and Will and Testament is the byproduct of being in her (and Hjorth's) brain and witnessing the decision-making in real time. It's at times maddening, suspenseful, funny, and repetitive, but never once did I have a firm grasp on exactly what would happen next--a rare feeling in most fiction these days. This is first book I've read in a while (certainly since practicing social distancing!) that I had trouble putting down. The pacing and short chapters pull the reader through this dark spiderweb of the narrator's past where the truth is laid bare, and actively questioned and ignored by her family. Will and Testament is a fascinating and truthful depiction of the inner-workings of a family and how the decisions we make either can or cannot be redeemed. Perfect for book clubs, it's a discussion starter for sure, and the autobiographical nature (and ensuing controversy in Norway) adds another layer to be dissected and considered. Trust me, you are going to want to discuss this book with someone who's read it once you finish. Read it! 4.5/5

  24. 5 out of 5

    anna

    This book captures so many aspects of family dispute/drama/disruption. There's the falling out between individuals, the ripples that run through the rest of the family unit, and then (for this family) the complication of an inheritance - allegedly to be distributed equally - and four children, two who have fallen out with the parents and two who have not. There's questions of alliances and allegiances, reliable/unreliable narrators and memories, and if money transferred somehow then requires a c This book captures so many aspects of family dispute/drama/disruption. There's the falling out between individuals, the ripples that run through the rest of the family unit, and then (for this family) the complication of an inheritance - allegedly to be distributed equally - and four children, two who have fallen out with the parents and two who have not. There's questions of alliances and allegiances, reliable/unreliable narrators and memories, and if money transferred somehow then requires a certain amount of silence. Where does the truth come into the light and does it matter? What does money mean in the face of different narratives, possible guilt, and death? A special note that I like the voice of the book - including the narrator's tendency to (briefly) repeat herself and that at times the chronology is confusing - because it seems so real and personal. Note that I picked this up after reading a review in The New Yorker and learning of the controversy it caused in Norway where some considered it "reality literature." Her sister has published a book with a competing story line, but it's not translated to English. Yet.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Simon Kearney

    I'm fascinated by the ways in which parents screw up their kids. It seems no matter what you do it can't be helped. The only question for parents is how to minimise the damage. Here the damage to the protagonist is so vivid. The parents attempts to minimise the damage to the family only wreak more havoc, deservedly so given what happened. It runs like a river through generations. The characters vulnerabilities are the underlying story. You're forced to question your sympathies. And everyone is s I'm fascinated by the ways in which parents screw up their kids. It seems no matter what you do it can't be helped. The only question for parents is how to minimise the damage. Here the damage to the protagonist is so vivid. The parents attempts to minimise the damage to the family only wreak more havoc, deservedly so given what happened. It runs like a river through generations. The characters vulnerabilities are the underlying story. You're forced to question your sympathies. And everyone is so old. The feelings expressed are like those of children, figuring out their way in the world but the book deals mostly with people in or well beyond middle age. I'm most impressed by the proximity to breakdown. Teetering on the edge of collapse, Bergljot, the main character, works with what she has. They all do. Their tools are basic. Their methods often clawing. It is war, as the character Klara says. The tension is derived as much through wondering if Bergljot will make it. Though the question of what happened or will happen is a close second. The ending turns out to be devastatingly simple and perfect.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Ignatius Vonnegut

    Close to a 5 star rating. It's very intimate and thorough around its theme. I only miss something concerning "the rest of her life" outside the incest story. One of the lasting impressions was the authors picture of herself. All in. Good and bad...

  27. 5 out of 5

    Cherise Wolas

    Bergljot, the first-person narrator, is an editor, divorced, the mother of three grown children, a grandmother, estranged from her parents, her older brother, and younger sisters. 23 years ago, after finding herself in an intense personal crisis, she enters 4-day-a-week psychoanalysis, and eventually tells her family what happened to her when she was a child - that she was abused by her father, who is still married to her mother, still the head of the family. They denied her claims and challenge Bergljot, the first-person narrator, is an editor, divorced, the mother of three grown children, a grandmother, estranged from her parents, her older brother, and younger sisters. 23 years ago, after finding herself in an intense personal crisis, she enters 4-day-a-week psychoanalysis, and eventually tells her family what happened to her when she was a child - that she was abused by her father, who is still married to her mother, still the head of the family. They denied her claims and challenged her claims and the family circled the wagons. When a dispute breaks out about the inheritance of summer cabins - the cabins will not be shared among the four siblings, have been valued at far less than their worth, and already given to the two younger daughters who have remained close to their parents - she is forced to again engage with her family and feels compelled to try once more to make them acknowledge what happened to her as a child. The writing is reserved and dry when focused on present-day events, and frantic, repetitive and insistent when the narrator is talking about the past, as happens when we are in deep distress and our brains go round and round, enclosing us with the narrator in her need to be heard, a need long and forever doomed. Bergljot's awareness of and even sympathy for the pain experienced by her parents and siblings as a result of what happened to her, and their denial of that, and her estrangement from them, is unusual. Also unusual is her ability to demonstrate by their past behaviors, actions, and words, that her father, though apparently drunk when he abused her, was aware he had done so, and that her mother worried that it was indeed likely that he had done so. And yet at each moment in the history of this family, someone turns away from the deep conversations that must be had. As horrible as the father's actions, perhaps even worse are her mother's: a needy woman who relies on threats of suicide, of turning everything back to herself. Three generations are affected here by unstated and stated abuse - Bergljot's father refers elliptically to what he'd suffered as a child without saying more, what Bergljot has suffered, and how that has affected her own children. What forms us begins so early in life, and childhood suffering carries though all of the years.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Andy Weston

    It’s isn’t very often fortunately, but every now and then a book finds its way onto my list that really doesn’t suit, an error, by me, in selecting it. I fell for that old trap, the publishers’ blurb, and I should have known better. The narrative is often repetitive and many of the passages in the first third of the book on family dynamics struggled to hold my attention.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Ida

    Jøss.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Jay Moran

    I knew exactly how it would play out; once I had contributed to it myself. I had been so completely enmeshed in the family's version of its own story. It wasn't until I became estranged myself, until I had distanced myself, that I started to look at things differently, but still slowly, taking baby steps, such is the power parental stories have over a child's concept of reality that it's almost impossible to free yourself. And had I managed to free myself? Or was I still stuck, and had the name o I knew exactly how it would play out; once I had contributed to it myself. I had been so completely enmeshed in the family's version of its own story. It wasn't until I became estranged myself, until I had distanced myself, that I started to look at things differently, but still slowly, taking baby steps, such is the power parental stories have over a child's concept of reality that it's almost impossible to free yourself. And had I managed to free myself? Or was I still stuck, and had the name of the villain merely changed? This book was phenomenal. It feels like Hjorth is punching you in the gut as you read it - in the best way. When you begin, you are immediately aware of the secrets that burden these characters, you can feel the weight of it, and, with deliberate slowness and precision, Hjorth hands you another detail, another hint, of what these secrets are. As the novel goes on, things gradually begin to make sense, the full picture coming into formation, and it kept me completely hooked from start to finish. Will and Testament is an unflinching, introspective look at trauma, fractured families, loneliness, and grief, and it's amazing. One of the best books I've read this year.

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