Drowned, set in the idyllic countryside during a short-lived Swedish summer, gets under one’s skin from the first page, creating an atmosphere of foreboding in which even the perfume of freshly picked vegetables roasting in the kitchen becomes ominous.
On the surface, the story couldn’t be simpler. A single young woman visits her older sister, who is married to a writer as charismatic as he is violent. As the young woman falls under her brother-in-law’s spell, the plot unfolds in a series of precisely rendered turns. Meanwhile the reader, anticipating the worst, hopes against hope that disaster can be averted.
More than a mere thriller, this debut novel delves deep into the feminine soul and at the same time exposes the continuing oppression of women in Sweden’s supposedly enlightened society. Mixing hothouse sensuality with ice-cold fear on every page, Drowned heralds the emergence of a major new talent on the international scene.
I want to warn you all ahead of time. There will be lots of spoilers in this review, so be forewarned... I try never to include spoilers in my reviews, but in order to really express why I feel the way I do about this novel, I will have to be fairly detailed.
For those of you that decided to proceed ahead:
I am so conflicted with this novel. As I began this story I thought that this would be an easy 4 star review. I was gripped from the beginning. It started out mellow, and really interesting. The relationship between these two sisters was terribly awkward and perplexing, and once I realized that there was a connection between Marina and her sister's husband, I rubbed my hands in anticipation and thought, "Here we go! Dramarama!!!"
And yes, I got some drama. Marina has a quickie affair with her bro-in-law which I expected. What I didn't expect was the lack of emotion surrounding it. I figure that someone who just slept with her sister's husband would feel somewhat guilty and even more awkward around her sister, and yet, the story continued on uneventfully. There were some very subtle hints that there was something dark surrounding Gabriel, but with the exception of a couple of swear words and outbursts... it was really anti climatic, and uneventful.
Second part... where it falls apart for me.
Marina returns to her sister's house after a few months after her sister's drowning to pack up and organize her things? I am never really sure if that is her purpose for returning as she then apparently states she is now living there with Gabriel to the neighbors.
She ping pongs through falling for Gabriel again, liquifying at the mere touch of his hands, to suspecting foul play in her sister's 'accidental' death. But with the exception of seeing his eyes 'change' and a tone to his voice,once again, it's pretty uneventful. Another outburst here and there, but from the outside looking in, I didn't really relate to how she would see him as a homicidal maniac and run through the house and lock her door, to then the next day, letting him get under her skirt.
At the end, there is a scene that is abusive, and his real nature is finally confirmed but it took the entire book to get there. And then it abruptly ends.
So... what happens to Marina. Is that dim wit going to stick around and be his next puppet? Furthermore... what the heck happened to her sister?? There is always a mere suspicion that things were not as they seemed with her death, and yet, that too goes completely unresolved in any way.
It was a well written novel in the technical sense. I could not put this down and ripped through it, but honestly, it was to look for answers that never came.
'Mixing hothouse sensuality with ice-cold fear on every page...' Well there was some 'sensuality' in this novel. Ice-cold fear on every page? .... Not at all. More like frustration on every page while I anticipated something explosive out of all that tension that continuously built up... and it just ended in disappointment.
This novel was kindly provided by the publisher via