Reader reviews for The Ice Palace

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A miniature psychological bildungsroman. It is very sparse and beautiful, taking place in a frozen landscape...somewhere that could be anywhere. The Scandanavian names of the two main characters are the only things which associate the book with a certain place (well, that and the fact that it was translated from Norweigan). In the middle of the book, cars and telephones are brought up briefly. Otherwise it would feel timeless as well.It's told from the point of view of an 11 year old girl, detailing the way she deals with a tragedy.
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This* is a novel about secrecy. Not even eleven year old Siss knows why she exposes herself cold and darkness to meet Unn, the new girl in school with the tragic past. Neither does anyone know where Unn has gone after roaming through the frozen waterfall called the ice palace. Yet, Siss refuses to tell anyone what the two girls talked about the day before Unn disappeared.In its shortness, it combines a whole bunch of different styles, ranging from discreet prose in the animating depiction of the ice palace over the fragments of Siss' vow of never-ending remembrance to an allegorical poem called "Dream of Snow-Covered Bridges".It is an artful move to chose two girls on the eve adolescence to be the protagonists as they ensure the novel's seriousness not despite but because their short life experience. I have hardly read a book more successful in earnestly bringing out two children's confusion and mysterious intimacy, telling its story close to main characters and close to the boundaries of prose and poetry.* I am referring to the Norwegian version, "carefully" revised and adapted to modern Nynorsk by Vesaas' daughter Guri Vesaas.Tarjei Vesaas: Is-slottet, Oslo: Gyldendal, 2007.
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This is a strange, beautiful novel. It concerns two young girls, Siss and Unn, who have developed an intense, inexplicable bond. Unn wants to confess something to Siss, but Siss loses her nerve and runs away. Rejected, Unn can’t face seeing Siss at school the next day, so plays truant and goes to explore the “ice palace” – a structure formed by the freezing waterfall. Unn never returns.There is little further action in the book after this point. The focus is not on narrative progression, but on Siss’ confused feelings of guilt and loyalty to her friend. The prose is utterly beautiful throughout. The description of Unn’s fatal exploration of the ice palace is among the most haunting pieces of writing I have ever read. I don’t think I’ve ever read any other Norwegian fiction, so this may be a sweeping generalisation on my part, but it seemed to me that a novel like this could only have come out of a place like Norway. It is impossible to imagine this novel being written while the author basked in bright sunshine. The cold and the endless dark are as central to the book as Siss and Unn themselves.
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