Review of Echoes from the Dead, Johan Theorin

Theorin leaves you with a hunger for more

With a language that floats like ice in water, Johan Theorin captures the reader in the first page and doesn’t let go."

Johan Theorin tells a story of despair, desperation and mourning so deep that it erases all other emotions. The misery caused by a lost child, accusations of responsibilities and guilt, and how it can tear whole families apart are prominent components in this well-written and very appealing debut novel.

In September of 1972 a young boy, Jens, disappears from his grandparent’s house in the small village of Stenvik in northern Öland, an island off Sweden’s southeast coast. Even though the search party is large and thorough, not a single trace of him is found and his whereabouts are never discovered. His mother, Julia, is left hanging in despair, unable to move on with her own life which in the end leaves her almost alone in life. A little more than twenty years later, Julia is on sick leave since more than a year due to a serious depression, is divorced from Jens’ father, has a very frosty relationship with her family and needs wine and pills every night to be able to sleep. The thought of Jens fills her mind completely and she keeps looking for him in the street, waiting for his return and fantasizing about his life away from her.

Julia’s father Gerlof, once a fisherman, is now living in a retirement home not far from the old village and is trying to keep himself active. He grieves the loss of his grandson and his daughter’s instability and is trying in his own ways to come to an understanding, even though he knows that the island both takes and gives to its inhabitants; it’s the law of nature. But one dark day in November something unexpected happens, a parcel is sent to him and it contains a shoe, a children’s shoe. Undoubtedly Jens’ shoe.

For the first time in years, Julia has to pull herself together and go home to the village to see the only trace of Jens that ever appeared and she is both scared and excited. Gerlof decides that it’s now or never, he has to find the truth about his grandson, even if it is the last thing he does before he dies. At the same time, winter is closing in on the island and the storms and the snow are there to stay.

The scenery of the novel, Öland, is partly an inhospitable island, with large areas of barren limestone plains, called Alvaret, which lie desolate and dreary. There are myths of a supernatural creature that lives out there, and about what happens to people who get lost in blizzards, darkness or in deep mist. Through the whole book, there’s a feeling creeping up on you, a feeling that there’s something waiting out there and that whoever takes the wrong step, like the child Jens, will be lost forever. The feeling is both uncomfortable and attractive, as a reader there’s nothing you can do except to give in, and then wait and see what lies just around another page.

With a language that floats like ice in water, Johan Theorin captures the reader in the first page and doesn’t let go. “Echoes from the Dead” is an excellent read and leaves you with a hunger for more.  

Submitted: 18 juni 2012

 
 


 Interviews 
Legends from a barren island

Legends from a barren island

Johan Theorin, writer of horror literature, seems to be stuck with the island of Öland. Many of his books are set on the oblong, barren island off the Swedish southeast coast. The writer himself spent all his childhood summers at the island, at his grandparent's cottage.

- The landscape at Öland is almost like a scene. It’s more of agoraphobia than of claustrophobia in the flat landscape with the great, open sky above it. For me, it's also a mental landscape which I can slide in and out of whenever needed, he says.

Read more ...

Publications

Echoes from the Dead

by Johan Theorin
This is the first novel in the author’s planned quartet of books taking place on the Swedish island of Öland.

The Darkest Room

by Johan Theorin
“The Darkest Room” has won several awards, such as Best Swedish Crime Novel 2008 by the Swedish Crime Writers' Academy, the Glass Key Award in 2009 and the CWA International Dagger in July 2010.

The Quarry

by Johan Theorin
Of all Theorin's books, this is the one with the largest influence of the mythology and supernatural which surrounds the island, Öland.

Books of special interest

The Merman

by Carl-Johan Vallgren
A story about the darkness that lives in all humans, even though most of us try to deny it.

Echoes from the Dead

by Johan Theorin
This is the first novel in the author’s planned quartet of books taking place on the Swedish island of Öland.

The Dogs of Riga

by Henning Mankell
The second book in the Kurt Wallander series.

Simon and the Oaks

by Marianne Fredriksson
A beautiful story about sons and their mothers.

New Collected Poems

by Tomas Tranströmer
Tomas Tranströmer is the 2011 Nobel Prize laureate in Literature. This books contains his collected work from his debut in 1954 with "17 Poems" to his most recent publications.

The Red Room

by August Strindberg
Criticizing the moral and hypocrisy in 1870s Stockholm.

Children's books

The Wonderful Adventures of Nils

by Selma Lagerlöf
“The Wonderful Adventures of Nils”, written in 1906 to 1907, came to be when Selma Lagerlöf was asked to write a book that could teach Swedish geography to school children.

Pippi Longstocking

by Astrid Lindgren
Pippi Longstocking lives alone in the big house “Villekulla“. Her father is busy pirating at sea and ruling as king of Kurrekurredutt Isle. But she is not lonely, as she has her friends Tommy and Annika, her horse Little buddy and her monkey Mr. Nilsson.

Bridget and the Moose Brothers

by Pija Lindenbaum
Bridget is all alone. She wants a sibling. A small one who can fit in her doll bed. Or maybe a big brother. Outside her building she meets the moose brothers and invites them to her room, having big plans to become their little sister.

When Owen's Mom Breathed Fire

by Pija Lindenbaum
Owen´s mom is always very busy. Every morning she is in a great hurry to get Owen up and to school and herself to work. But one day she has been turned into a big dragon and no longer knows how to be a mum.

The Diamond Mystery

by Martin Widmark
The first part in the popular series about Jerry and Maya, the children who are running their very own detective agency.

The Literary Magazine lists

Money

by Victoria Benedictsson
“Money” is Benedictsson's first novel, publish...

The Merman

by Carl-Johan Vallgren
Coming from a shattered family, the children Nella and Robert ...

Miss Julie

by August Strindberg
It’s Midsummer night in 1874 at a Count’s estate s...

The Red Room

by August Strindberg
First published in 1879, it received mixed reviews in Sweden, ...

New Collected Poems

by Tomas Tranströmer
Tomas Tranströmer is the 2011 Nobel Prize laureate in Lit...

The Dogs of Riga

by Henning Mankell
It’s the winter of 1991 and a small life raft with two d...

Italian Shoes

by Henning Mankell
On a small, isolated island in the Stockholm archipelago, Fred...

I Die, But the Memory Lives On

by Henning Mankell
A nonfictional fable about a growing tradition in countries in...

The Man from Beijing

by Henning Mankell
On a freezing day in January, a body is found in the snow in t...

The Ice Princess

by Camilla Läckberg
Published in 2002, this is Camilla Läckberg’s debut...

About The Literary Magazine

The Literary Magazine of Swedish books and writers – is a web-based literary magazine that specialises in Swedish literature. The Literary Magazine covers the latest in Swedish literature with articles and reviews.

The Literary Magazine is produced by the lagest Swedish literary magazine, LitteraturMagazinet, and based out of Stockholm, Sweden.

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