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{Review} The Royal Guest – Henrik Pontoppidan

21 May

When I think of Scandinavian Literature, I think of iconic children’s stories and crime novels that blow most of the ones I grew up on out of the water. So, for Rose City Reader’s  European Reading Challenge, I decided to shake things up a bit and go for books that don’t fall into either of those genres but were written by famous authors. (Pontoppidan won the Nobel Prize for Literature at the start of the 20th century).

It’s a shame I didn’t try this sooner…

Blurb
Six years after their wedding, Arnold and Emmy are as in love as ever and want for nothing in their country lives save for the occasional visit from their city-dwelling relatives. When they learn at the last minute that their guests will not be able to stay with them during the Carnival, they decide to make the most of it and spend a quiet evening relaxing.

Then a stranger, the so-called Prince of Carnivals, arrives begging a room for the night. It quickly becomes apparent that this is no ordinary man and his carnival madness threatens to be their undoing…
Review
After years of openings that start with snow (or other forms of pathetic fallacy), it was wonderful to begin by reading a wry observation on country vs. city life and the way in which each is viewed by the other. It’s a nice hook to start the story on and it works very well as the yarn unravels.

Pontoppidan has a beautiful way of bringing characters to life through the smallest of details and the off-the-cuff remarks that they make. We know just how deeply in love his happily in love couple are from the first. Furthermore, the story opens with them being peaceful and ‘we know we love each other’, something that has been sorely lacking in several of the romance stories I’ve read recently.

This is an exploration of the strange and sometimes surreal, although I wasn’t entirely convinced by the revelations centred around the Prince of Carnivals. Then again, I wasn’t entirely satisfied with that element in An Inspector Calls until I’d read it several times. The realistic elements in The Royal Guest, such as the couple’s changing attitudes to each other and their interaction with other people who live in their town get a thumb’s up though for feeling realistic and developing at a steady pace that captured my attention for the duration of the story.

Overall
This is the perfect book to introduce yourself to Danish Literature with: it’s perfectly balanced and examines love, forgiveness, trust and the unexpected in an interesting way. The only element I’m not wild about is who the Prince of Carnivals is. But that is just me needing to know all the answers. 😉

WNI’s verdict? WIN

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