Born on the Norwegian island that bears her name, Ingrid Barrøy’s world is circumscribed by storm-scoured rocks and the moods of the sea by which her family lives and dies. Shortlisted for the 2017 International Man Booker Prize and the 2018 International Dublin Literary Award.
'An island is a cosmos in a nutshell …' The setting for this Norwegian bestseller, translated by Don Bartlett and Don Shaw and now shortlisted for the International Man Booker prize, is a speck of rock off Norway’s coast at the start of the 20th century ... This is a profound interrogation of freedom and fate, as well as a fascinating portrait of a vanished time, written in prose as clear and washed clean as the world after a storm.
...even by his high standards, his magnificent new novel The Unseen is Jacobsen’s finest to date, as blunt as it is subtle and is easily among the best books I have ever read ... The weather immediately emerges as the major presence and shares its role with the vividly drawn characters ... There is a unique universality about The Unseen. Jacobsen’s prose is beautiful, clean, poised and plain-speaking, but there are interludes of Shakespearean grandeur in the dazzling descriptions of storms. The family seems to accept these vicious tempests as necessary rituals ... Jacobsen’s translators, Don Bartlett and Don Shaw, have surpassed themselves ... Yes, there is a terrific story but it is the writing that will cause most readers to read this book at one sitting ... Ordinary human tragedy frequently intervenes in The Unseen. Life is relentless, as are the seasons. Wisdom and resignation determine much of the action, yet Jacobsen is unafraid of introducing the more lowly elements of social behaviour. There is humour as well as stark, unsentimental pathos .... How to convey the compelling allure of this novel? Jacobsen’s inspired characterisation is well served by the gruff, convincing exchanges, his uncanny feel for the sea and nature in upheaval, and, above all, by his his eloquent awareness of the eerie sensation that a brief moment of silence can create, on an island where sound prevails.
A laconic and affecting story about fate and love, time and survival, the book is a quiet and sturdy masterpiece ... The wind and waves are an ever-present concern in the islanders’ minds. Their isolation renders them exquisitely aware of the subtle shifts of emotion that beset them ... For his part, Jacobsen finds a great deal of profound value in his observations of the courageous and dignified inhabitants of Barrøy, all told in spare language that seems simultaneously as straightforward and natural as the drifting tides and as carefully woven as his islander’s nets.