Dina’s Book, by Herbjorg Wassmo

Herbjørg Wassmo

Herbjorg Wassmo was born in Vesterålen, Norway, December 6, 1942. She worked as a teacher in northern Norway until her debut as an author. Her debut work was a collection of poems, Vingeslag (Beating of Wings). Her major breakthrough was her first novel, Huset med den blinde glassveranda (The House with the Blind Glass Porch) in 1981.

Her 1989 novel, Dinas bok (Dina's Book), was made into a film titled I Am Dina in 2002, starring Maria Bonnevie and Gérard Depardieu.

Herbjorg Wassmo

Bibliography (selected)

  • Vingeslag (poetry, 1976)
  • Flotid (poetry, 1977)
  • Huset med den blinde glassveranda ( 1981 - The House with the Blind Glass Windows)
  • Det stumme rommet (1983)
  • Hudløs himmel (1986)
  • Dinas bok (1989 - Dina's Book)
  • Lite grønt bilde i stor blå ramme (poetry, 1991)
  • Lykkens sønn (1992 - Dina's Son)
  • Reiser - fire fortellinger (1995)
  • Karnas arv (1997)
  • Det sjuende møte (2000)
  • Flukten fra Frank (2003)
  • Et glass melk takk (2006)

Herbjorg (Herbjørg in Norwegian) Wassmo has written around 20 books, several of them best- sellers in Norway. She was awarded the Nordic Council price in 1987 for Hudløs himmel. Her books are generally written from a female perspective and are generally set in Northern Norway, where the author is from. Her characters are often strong women.

Dina's Book, by Herbjorg WassmoDina’s Book too is about a woman who in some ways is extremely strong, in other ways fragile and constantly fighting her inner daemons. It is set in Norway in the mid-nineteenth century. The narrative is powerful and intriguing. Dina is an extraordinary heroine who carries a heavy burden: At the age of five she caused an accident that killed her mother. Her father blamed her for the accident and as a result, he was no longer able to have a normal relationship with his daughter. She was banished to a farm where she grew up basically untaught and untamed, was strong-willed and would only do things that she liked.

After years of exile, and at the insistence of the local pastor, her father finally takes Dina back. Her father has remarried, to a younger woman whom Dina detests. Now a strict discipline begins. A tutor is brought in; coarse language is replaced by polite conversation, tree climbing is replaced with music. Gradually Dina turns into a breathtakingly beautiful young women. But she is still as willful as ever, still as private and close-guarded, still haunted by the memories of her mother. However, her beauty and her unconventional behavior give her a kind of erotic power that allows her to ensnare and enchant.

At the young age of fifteen Dina is married off to wealthy fifty-year-old landowner, Jacob Gronelv of Reisnes, a friend of her father who has fallen completely under her spell. He desires her, but soon finds that Dina is too much for him. She wants more sex than he can give; she stays up during the night and plays her cello so that he can’t sleep; she acts like a tomboy; and she is moody.

A few years later Jacob dies under mysterious circumstances, and Dina becomes mute. Perhaps Dina caused his death. Perhaps she even killed him? Regardless, when finally she emerges from her trauma, she seizes control over Jacob's estate and runs it with an iron hand.

Now Dina wrestles with her two unappeased ghosts: Jacob and her mother. Until one day a mysterious stranger, the Russian wanderer Leo, enters her life and changes it forever. She is compelled to possess him, but she cannot ensnare him ..

This oddly beautiful novel, which deals with the boundary between sanity and insanity and with strength and our perception of it, is very evocative and more or less pulls the reader into the turmoil that is Dina’s life in the hard, demanding and rough environment of Northern Norway with a strange, serene beauty and stronger overtones of eroticism. It’s a book that is shocking and moving, hard and warm. An intense and penetrating novel that tells a very special tale, told with an intensity that is unusual and very compelling. The language is strong and colorful. Dina's Book by Herbjorg Wassmo is a remarkable, perhaps even brilliant novel that is hard to put down once you have started reading it. I enjoyed it very much.

Praise for Dina's Book:

"this spellbinding novel calls to mind Eliot’s Middlemarchand the film Babette’s Feast.. . . Insightful, memorable characterizations, coupled with spare, unadorned prose, move the haunting narrative swiftly to its enigmatic finish" — Publishers Weekly

"[A] sweeping, romantic novel. . . . [Wassmo] convincingly conveys Dina’s shattered psyche, as well as the narrow-mindedness of her neighbors. She also skillfully evokes the primitiveness of the Norwegian landscape" — Kirkus Reviews

"An accomplished writer . . . a gut wrenching portrait of a woman forever in the grip of her past." — Charlotte Innes, Los Angeles Times

"Wassmo writes about Norway’s brutal cold and the maddening midnight sun, and the heat of unconscionable desire and the hovering shadow of death, with a magnetic intensity that burns through reason and compassion and explodes into the void." — Donna Seaman, Booklist

The movie of this book, I Am Dina, is outstanding as well. See our review of it!

See more reviews of Norwegian fiction books!
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