“Wood is an endlessly adaptive material. You can plane, chisel, saw, carve, sand, and bend it, and when the pieces are the shape you want you can use dovetail joints, tenpenny nails, pegs or glue; you can use lamination or inlay or marquetry; and then you can beautify it with French polish or plain linseed oil or subtle stains. And when you go to dinner at a friend’s house, the candlelight will pick out the contours of grain and line, and when you take your seat you will be reminded that what you are sitting on grew from the dirt, stretched towards the sun, weathered rain and wind, and sheltered animals; it was not extruded by faceless machines lined on a cold cement floor and fed from metal vats. Wood reminds us where we come from.”
Like Aud Torvingen herself, Nicola Griffith comes across as having the uttermost respect for the raw material that inspires her work. She seems to deconstruct and reconstruct that raw material with the same carefulness that Aud transforms the wood she works with. Griffith’s descriptions are impressive and meticulous, creating an atmosphere that is beyond intense, beyond palpable. I would compare the experience of reading this book to the one of going into deep hypnosis. Griffith too lulls you into one very specific moment and then leads you through it from there. The pace changes with the emotional charge and you can feel your heart following its rhythm. It’s like you were cut from a static background and are being blended into a moving one as if you belonged there in the first place, perhaps as a watermark. It’s quite an experience.
That said, I think we need to talk about Aud. What a character! She’s the kind of person you would declare as being cold at first sight. Not because she is, but because that’s what she wants you to see. She’s as precise as a machine, she changes masks and skins as effortlessly as the most brilliant actor… There’s a strength to her, a sense of awareness… it’s frightening how real she feels, how much sense her existence makes. Of course one could say that she is a privileged one, having the money, the looks and the connections that she does, but that was where her life took her. If given the opportunity, she might have chosen a different path. Again, it’s quite an experience to travel through such a mind. Such math, such logic…
I would say that this is a book much more about the main character, Aud Torvingen, than about the main event, the crime that occurred. An introduction of some kind. It feels like the beginning of something, the reason behind something else… That’s why I am definitely going to read the second book of the series. I am intrigued by both the storyline and the writing style.
P.S. It’s refreshing to read a story in which the character’s most interesting detail, her uniqueness, is not her sexuality.