BOOK REVIEW / Spun out of air and rain: His Mother's House - Marta Morazzoni Tr. Emma Rose: Harvill, pounds 13.99
Saturday 09 July 1994
The hero himself, a woeful gollumpus of a young man called Haakon, is forever struck by the ' . . . awful thought that death might be an endless night without sleep'. It is a mystery why Haakon should be quite so down in the dumps. But Morazzoni is a romantic; sickness and death loomed large in her first book, Girl in a Turban, a somewhat precious collection of short stories influenced by the dark canvasses of Jan Van Eyck and other Flemish painters. Now there are cries and whispers from Ingmar Bergman.
The plot, such as it is, hovers round Haakon's annual visit home to his widowed mother in Bergen, a lakeside estate where it rains all day. Agnes is a dreadful old sourpuss. The only affection she has ever displayed is for her blessed Norwegian garden. And she tends to it like a mad thing, weeding and raking with gloved green fingers. The trouble starts when the nurseryman's daughter inexplicably moves in with Agnes, ousting poor Haakon from his mother's affection. On the face of it, young Felice is there to help with the gardening. But, as always with Morazzoni, there's an undertow of things more sinister. A vampiric relationship? Something sapphic? We are never told; atmosphere is all. Haakon, though, considers Felice a dangerous rival in his love for mother and departs in high dudgeon, sailing back to Oslo for good.
Parasols and horse-drawn trams date His Mother's House to some time before the Great War. This flight from modern times is typical of Morazzoni. Elsewhere she has set stories in the Vienna of Emperor Joseph II, even in 17th-century Holland. Her Norwegian novel has the grainy quality of a sepia photograph, an air of bygone gentility. Like Rosetta Loy and Francesca Duranti - other women novelists writing today in Italy - Marta Morazzoni is a pleasing though minor talent. She writes as though we had never landed on the moon, her prose faintly purple if not antique. If only she would turn to her native Milan (why go to Norway?) for inspiration. Contemporary Italian literature is in need of a pick-me-up.
Filming to begin on two new series due to be aired on Dave from next year
TVBBC hopes latest Danish import will spell success
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Which country would be hardest to invade?
- 2 The man who filmed the Freddie Gray video has been arrested at gunpoint
- 3 Indonesia executions: Death row British grandmother Lindsay Sandiford will refuse to wear a blindfold when she faces firing squad
- 4 How the language you speak changes your view of the world
- 5 Royal baby girl born: Duchess of Cambridge's second child will be a princess thanks to Queen
Over 50,000 families shipped out of London boroughs in the past three years due to welfare cuts and soaring rents
EU asylum policy is 'a direct threat to our civilisation', says Nigel Farage
The Rothschild Libel: Why has it taken 200 years for an anti-Semitic slur that emerged from the Battle of Waterloo to be dismissed?
General Election 2015: SNP and its activists 'openly racist' towards the English, Farage says
General Election 2015: UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power, Labour warns
Schools forced to act as 'miniature welfare states' with teachers buying underwear and even haircuts for poor pupils