BOOK REVIEW / Spun out of air and rain: His Mother's House - Marta Morazzoni Tr. Emma Rose: Harvill, pounds 13.99

LONG ON description and short on plot, His Mother's House is a literary helium balloon. It is 100 pages of weightless prose apparently spun from air. Marta Morazzoni makes a virtue of absence; she is all glancing allusion and shimmering evocation. Set in Norway, this brief novel is fairly damp with atmosphere: there are dismal fjords, and it rains in Oslo like a leaking basin.

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.

Suggested Topics
Arts and Entertainment

Filming to begin on two new series due to be aired on Dave from next year

TV

Arts and Entertainment
Kit Harington plays MI5 agent Will Holloway in Spooks: The Greater Good

'You can't count on anyone making it out alive'film
Arts and Entertainment
War veteran and father of Peter and Laust Thoger Jensen played by Lars Mikkelson

TVBBC hopes latest Danish import will spell success

Arts and Entertainment
Carey Mulligan in Far From The Madding Crowd
FilmCarey Mulligan’s Bathsheba would fit in better in The Hunger Games
Arts and Entertainment
Pandas-on-heat: Mary Ramsden's contribution is intended to evoke the compound the beasts smear around their habitat
Iart'm Here But You've Gone exhibition has invited artists to produce perfumes
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

    Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

    Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
    Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

    Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

    Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
    China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

    China's influence on fashion

    At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
    Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

    The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

    Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
    Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

    Rainbow shades

    It's all bright on the night
    'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

    Bread from heaven

    Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
    Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

    How 'the Axe' helped Labour

    UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
    Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

    The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

    A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
    Welcome to the world of Megagames

    Welcome to the world of Megagames

    300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
    'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

    Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

    Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

    The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
    Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

    Vince Cable exclusive interview

    Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
    Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

    Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

    Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
    Russell Brand's interview with Ed Miliband has got everyone talking about The Trews

    Everyone is talking about The Trews

    Russell Brand's 'true news' videos attract millions of viewers. But today's 'Milibrand' interview introduced his resolutely amateurish style to a whole new crowd
    Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

    It's time for my close-up

    Meet the man who films great whites for a living