In high school, I had to read Hanne Ørstavik‘s Kjærlighet (Love) for class. I hated every page. It was filled with oppression and an impending sense of bad things coming, and once we hit the end, my 17-year-old, hardcore gothic self couldn’t stand the thought of the end of the story. Couldn’t face it. In the class discussion, the teacher had to spend ten minutes convincing me that the story couldn’t be read in two ways, that the ending I’d imagined as too gruesome, was in fact the right one.
I hated it.
But as the years passed and I read book after book after book, Hanne Ørstavik’s Kjærlighet stuck with me. Scenes from that book are as vivid in my head now as they were ten years ago, and I can’t say that about many books I’ve read. The more I think about it, the more I respect what Ørstavik did with the story. The use of two points of view, the utter believability of both characters, the understated hints at the horror going on just under the surface, all of it came together to make a truly memorable and powerful narrative.
Sure, Kjærlighet has about as much cheer in it as Snow Angels, but there’s something impressive about a story that sticks. Even if I didn’t like what the book had to tell me, I’ve carried the tale with me for ten years. I hope someone will one day say the same about my writing.
Which books have you read that stuck with you? And did you like them?