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The Bell in the Lake (2018)

de Lars Mytting

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Séries: Sister Bells (1)

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23420108,910 (4.2)45
"As long as people could remember, the stave church's bells had rung over the isolated village of Butangen, Norway. Cast in memory of conjoined twins, the bells are said to ring on their own in times of danger. In 1879, young pastor Kai Schweigaard moves to the village, where young Astrid Hekne yearns for a modern life. She sees a way out on the arm of the new pastor, who needs a tie to the community to cull favor for his plan for the old stave church, with its pagan deity effigies and supernatural bells. When the pastor makes a deal that brings an outsider, a sophisticated German architect, into their world, the village and Astrid are caught between past and future, as dark forces come into play"--… (mais)
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Lars Mytting’s The Bell in the Lake, is the first instalment in a projected trilogy, now available in an English translation by Deborah Dawkin. The novel opens in 1880 in the Norwegian village of Butangen, where young and ambitious Kai Schweigaard has just been appointed pastor. Butangen is described as being “twenty years behind its neighbouring villages, which were thirty years behind Norway’s towns and cities, which were fifty years behind the rest of Europe”. Butangen’s richest possession is an 700-year old wooden stave church, decorated with motifs which harken back to pagan beliefs. Schweigaard knows that the church is uncomfortable and cold, and no longer meets the needs of his parishioners. He plans to build a new church replacing the old. It helps that there are Germans interested in medieval history who are keen on buying the old stave church and relocating it to Dresden.

Astrid Hekne, daughter of a once-distinguished farming family, is resistant to the project. The two bells in the church tower were paid for and forged by Astrid’s ancestor three centuries before, in memory of conjoined twins Halfrid and Gunhild Hekne, and their mother who died in childbirth. The bells are reputed to be magical, ringing of their own accord whenever some calamity threatens the community. As Astrid tries to save the bells and keep them in Butangen, she is also drawn into a love-triangle between Pastor Schweigaard and Gerhard Schönauer, the young German artist and architect tasked with overseeing the relocation project.

The Bell in the Lake is quite old-fashioned in its narrative style. Which is no bad thing. Mytting tells a story about the trials and tribulations of a small farming village but manages to turn it into an epic tale, with larger-than life characters torn by violent emotions. There is also, throughout, a strong element of magic. The villagers are portrayed as still believing in superstitions of old, but it is suggested that there is certainly some truth to their beliefs. The novel remains rooted in realism, but the supernatural elements give it a mythical twist and suggest a more timeless metaphysical backdrop to the personal stories of the characters. There’s almost a hint of Thomas Hardy in the portrayal of the hardy villagers whose domestic joys or (more often than not) tragedies bear the weight of history and play out against the timeless cycle of seasons. The vernacular of the villagers is difficult to translate into English, but Deborah Dawkin does a good job of conveying this through the creation of an archaic-sounding dialect which is used when they speak.

In the concluding Author’s Note, Mytting refers to legends narrated in the areas around Vekkom, Tromsnes, Brekkom and Dovre, which served as the inspiration for the tale of the sisters and the church bells. The relocation of the stave church is also rooted in reality – in 1842, such a church was, in fact dismantled and rebuilt in a part of Poland which was then under Prussian rule. The novel has, in fact, an aura of authenticity which adds to its enjoyment.

Despite being the first instalment of a trilogy, The Bell in the Lake may be enjoyed as a standalone novel because it gives adequate closure, whilst leaving enough loose ends to justify a sequel. I understand that the second volume has already been published in Norwegian, with plans for an English translation to follow. It finds in yours truly, an eagerly awaiting reader.

For the full review, including a playlist of Norwegian music go to

https://endsoftheword.blogspot.com/2020/10/the-bell-in-the-lake-by-Lars-Mytting.... ( )
1 vote JosephCamilleri | Feb 21, 2023 |
1880 Butangen Norway. After one of his parishioners froze to death during a church service, young city-bred pastor Kai Schweigaard agreed to finance a snug new church by selling the 700 year old stave church with its pagan carvings and wonderful bells to a group of investors. The investors wanted to carefully dismantle the church and then reassemble it in a city where it coulc be preserved and admired.

But the church seemed to be a living part of the community. Astrid’s forefathers in the 16th century had the bells created in memory of conjoined twins Halfrid and Gunhild and their mother who died in childbirth. The bells are said to have magical powers to protect the small town. Many of the townspeople, including Astrid, are highly skeptical of having the town’s iconic church so removed. But then architect Gerhard Schonauer arrived from Dresden to oversee the project and Astrid is captured by a type of man she has never seen before and his description of a lifestyle that is completely different than the local farming community she’s known.

To complicate the matter further, the young pastor also admires Astrid and contemplates abandoning his fiancé and promising future to stay in the small community if only Astrid would join him.

Wonderful historical fiction. I did not know about stave churches and their oft combined Nordic and Christian symbols. I really enjoyed Astrid’s character and the bit of old magic in the air. In checking character names for this review, I see this may be the first of a trilogy. It works well as a stand alone, but when the next one comes out, I will certainly read it. ( )
  streamsong | Aug 18, 2022 |
La vita è dura in Norvegia, il freddo invernale lascia poco scampo e la povertà dilaga. Le tradizioni sono dure a morire, ma devono necessariamente morire?
Un romanzo dolce amaro sulla vita, l'arte, le tradizioni, i cambiamenti, le difficoltà di farsi accettare in un tessuto sociale molto chiuso, la necessità di migliorare per ottenere cambiamenti e risultati.
Al solito molto ben scritto, Lars Mytting ci tiene in sospeso fino alla fine e ci descrive una Norvegia che non conosciamo e una Desdra che è stata distrutta ma rivive sotto la sua magica penna.
Scrive che sarà una trilogia e attendo con piacere il seguito, nel frattempo leggerò Norwegian Wood, che sembra non essere il trattato sul legno che mi ero immaginata. ( )
  Lillymao | Aug 4, 2022 |
DNF p.108. Lost interest.
  pacbox | Jul 9, 2022 |
In 1880 droomt een j́onge Noorse over een bijzondere toekomst ( )
  huizenga | Jan 24, 2022 |
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Lars Myttings «Søsterklokkene» byr på en mektig fortelling fra Gudbrandsdalen i et håndfast språk som kan bære den
adicionado por annek49 | editarDN, SUSANNE HEDEMANN HIORTH (Aug 24, 2018)
 
Han skriver om søsterklokker i sølv, men det kan godt tenkes Lars Mytting har lagt selve gullegget med sin nye roman. Forfatteren er på hugget fra første setning og slipper aldri taket på leseren
adicionado por annek49 | editarVG, Arne Hugo Stølan (Aug 23, 2018)
 

» Adicionar outros autores

Nome do autorFunçãoTipo de autorObra?Status
Mytting, Larsautor principaltodas as ediçõesconfirmado
Dawkin, DeborahTradutorautor secundárioalgumas ediçõesconfirmado

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"As long as people could remember, the stave church's bells had rung over the isolated village of Butangen, Norway. Cast in memory of conjoined twins, the bells are said to ring on their own in times of danger. In 1879, young pastor Kai Schweigaard moves to the village, where young Astrid Hekne yearns for a modern life. She sees a way out on the arm of the new pastor, who needs a tie to the community to cull favor for his plan for the old stave church, with its pagan deity effigies and supernatural bells. When the pastor makes a deal that brings an outsider, a sophisticated German architect, into their world, the village and Astrid are caught between past and future, as dark forces come into play"--

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