Who doesn’t like to hear a great story? Basically, from the onset of humanity itself, storytelling has retained a key role in society. Funny, sad, horrific or inspiring… people just love to hear stories! However, what happens when a tale becomes too close to the real thing? Diabolically intertwined with reality in such a way that the listeners become characters themselves. The line between fantasy and reality becoming steadily blurred and twisted. In his novel, Storytellers, Bjorn Larssen presents just such a predicament. A top-notch novel which clearly reveals that things are not always as they seem!
The story takes place in Iceland, back in the year 1920. It follows the exploits of the main character, the Blacksmith named Gunnar. He is a recluse who enjoys the company of the bottle better than that of any person. One night, a mysterious and injured stranger by the name of Sigurd shows up at his door. The irascible Blacksmith reluctantly agrees to allow him lodging and to nurse him back to health. The provision of a bagful of money, and the promise of a great story sweeten the deal for Gunnar. As Sigurd begins to deliver his tale, we see that it takes place 40 years earlier in this very same village. It follows the lives of Arnar and his American bride Juana. Through Sigurd’s words we are soon transported into a tragic tale of love gone wrong. Deception, treachery, and bloodshed lurking around every corner. As the story progresses, Gunnar’s own private little sanctuary begins to close in around him. There is something strangely malevolent about this elderly storyteller… and it looks as if worlds are about to collide!
One of the distinct benefits of Storytellers, is that you actually get two tales for the price of one! We are able to follow Gunnar’s exploits in the present, and Sigurd’s in the past. They are presented in such a way that the reader will truly be captivated and engrossed… always predicting and in a perpetual state of suspense about what is yet to come. Eventually the tales are connected and revelations are presented in an entirely believable and exciting fashion. The author cleverly takes his time doing this which makes the climax all that more powerful. It is very hard not to become sucked into the exciting vortex of this novel!
While the story is full of excitement and suspense, the author also does a masterful job in presenting his characters. While there are a fair number of players in this novel, it is nevertheless really Gunnar and Sigurd’s show. Through them, Larssen is able to present his themes and evoke powerful emotions in the reader. They personify good and evil, as well as despondency and hope. They are both entirely realistic and authentic beings. Personally, I found how closely I related to Gunnar to be a tad frightening! His thoughts exactly mirror those of many individuals who suffer from the same conditions. Very powerful! I also enjoyed how Sigurd’s warped and tendentious perception of reality contributed to the overall suspense of the novel. Characterization at its best!
I would be remiss to end this review without making note of the author’s obvious writing prowess. In particular, the flowing and vivid descriptions of the Icelandic setting and also the actual story events. Poetic and beautiful!
This novel receives my highest recommendation.
5 out of 5 Storytelling Stars for this one!