Review published on April 20, 2016.
This debut historical fiction features the imaginary muse of one Norwegian artist and her summer of 1893 spent with another, Edvard Munch.
I have some knowledge of Munch and his works and was very interested in how the author wove many of his famous images into the story, either directly as paintings or as a scene in the narrative.
The eponymous heroine, Johanne, is a country girl at heart, summer-jobbing as a servant to the wealthy, but she has artistic flair and through her we come to imagine how it is to ‘feel’ a painting or to ‘hear’ it, uncomfortable as it is with the famous “The Scream”. The raw power of colour is emphasised again and again.
Budding relationships feature throughout this book: Munch, the mentor, and Johanne; Munch the lover and Tullik, daughter of Johanne’s employers and younger sister of a former lover of Munch; Johanne and her fisherman first-love Thomas. The ‘simple’ life of a small fishing village is subsumed by the rich and well-to-do’s for the summer only, and both of these lifestyles are contrasted with the arty bohemians who flood there too. All with different temptations and troubles.
The domestic scenes enhanced the reading experience for me as much as the art work, the humdrum detail as much as the raw emotion.
I appreciated the author’s Afterword which clarified the fact and the fiction contained within the novel and added to my reading satisfaction.
I read this book in two sittings, pardon the pun, and look forward to reading Stromme’s next novel.
The Strawberry Girl by Lisa Stromme
Chatto & Windus 978-1-784-74058-0 hbk Apr 2016
Diary of a Short-Sighted Adolescent by Mircea Eliade
Quiet Flows the Una by Faruk Šehić
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