A Summer of Drowning

John Burnside
Jonathan Cape

A beautiful and haunting book, A Summer of Drowning is set in the white nights of an Arctic summer on the lonely and atmospheric island of Kvaløya. Here, in the far north of Norway and deep in the Arctic Circle in the days of the midnattsol, the light takes on an unsettling quality and folktales gather power.

Angelika Rossdal, a prominent Norwegian painter settles in this isolated land with her daughter, Liv, who grows up listening to the stories of her neighbour, Kyrre Jonsson. The novel looks back to the summer of Liv’s 18th year, when a series of mysterious drownings occur and Kyrre speaks of the huldra, a wild and beautiful spirit who lures young men to their watery death. Kyrre’s tales seep into the atmosphere and as they become more alluring to the susceptible Liv, the boundaries between fiction and reality are slowly eroded.

Burnside has an innate understanding of this isolated landscape and portrays the intense nature of the light and its ability to alter perceptions in delicate and exquisite prose. A charming and deeply imaginative novel.

Bryony Byrne