This is the story of Alberta Selmer, a young woman from a provincial town in the far north of Norway. Here the warm summers thaw the town’s social life. Families parade the boulevards and picnic on the hillsides, watching boats of tourists enter the harbour. Young men and women who have moved south return as different people, cultured, emancipated. Then, at the arrival of winter they depart once more, snow and rime settle over the town, and Alberta is left alone to her thoughts, her dim prospects and her family. There is her mother whom she is routinely disappointing. Her father whose ambition has waned and set, and her brother, Jacob, whose recklessness is a constant source of worry. Timid and seemingly without promise, Alberta’s destiny is all but written in the long lines on her mother’s face. That is, unless she can summon the courage to leave home.
Combining mastery of style and characterization with brilliant descriptive writing, this powerful story of a young woman’s rebellion is universally regarded as one of the greatest novels to come from Scandinavia, and forms part of what is without doubt one of the finest bildungsromans ever written.
Translated from the Norwegian by Elizabeth Rokkan (The Ice Palace)