Would you murder your brothers to keep them from telling the truth about themselves?
On a long, cold Icelandic night in March 1920, Gunnar, a hermit blacksmith, finds himself with an unwanted lodger – Sigurd, an injured stranger who offers a story from the past. But some stories, even those of an old man who can barely walk, are too dangerous to hear. They alter the listeners’ lives forever… by ending them.
Others are keen on changing Gunnar’s life as well. Depending on who gets to tell his story, it might lead towards an unwanted marriage, an intervention, rejoining the Church, letting the elf drive him insane, or succumbing to the demons in his mind. Will he manage to write his own last chapter?
Bjørn Larssen’s award-winning, Amazon #1 best selling novel is an otherworldly, emotive Icelandic saga – a story of love and loneliness, relief and suffering, hatred… and hope.
Bjørn has shared an extract today. Grab that hot drink, a comfortable chair and enjoy.
*****beginning of extract*****
Like most writers, I have certain subjects that are dear to my heart. Three of them are neurodivergence, mental illness (not the same thing), and addiction.
My protagonist, Gunnar, is on the autism spectrum and has a generalised anxiety disorder accompanied by depression, self-medicated with alcohol. He is also living in the year 1920, before the word “depression” came into use at all. He’s an uneducated blacksmith in a society where showing feelings – revealing that you had them – outside your diaries or poems you wrote was impossible. It wasn’t seen as cynical to say there was no time for grief or melancholy. It was simply the truth. There was too much work to be done.
It’s not just the external world that doesn’t understand Gunnar’s different mind. He has no words to express how he feels. All he knows is that he “shouldn’t” be like this, that “normal people” aren’t. During Icelandic prohibition, the only way to acquire alcohol was to visit a doctor and get it “prescribed” – Gunnar’s whisky is, ostentatiously, medication for his non-existent lung problems. A bottle of whisky a week isn’t enough anymore, though, so he makes moonshine… which is, of course, illegal, which makes his anxiety worse. There’s only one way he knows to feel better – he carries a flask wherever he goes.
There was a time in my life when I went through a long period of depression. Everything was grey. I didn’t even remember how to laugh. I was ashamed of admitting it. I “knew” that depression was a made-up thing that the educated members of the middle-class came up with to justify their laziness. Gunnar doesn’t have the words to express that, but if he could, he’d be thinking the same. There was one medication that calmed me down, even sent me into euphoria. It came in bottles.
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