Christmas Oratorio

Goran Tunstrom, Author, Paul Hoover, Translator David R. Godine Publisher $23.95 (352p) ISBN 978-1-56792-008-6
Beginning in 1930s Sweden, this rich, poignant novel spans three generations of the Nordensson family--children, parents and lovers who do not really know each another. Their speech and fantasies, says Sidner Nordensson tells his son, Victor, are like frozen music that may take ages to thaw out. The death of Sidner's mother, Solveig, is one of those ``moments that never end.'' Sidner watched her being trampled to death by cows in a freak accident in the early 1930s; she had been on her way to talk to the choir master about the Bach oratorio in which she was to have sung. This was the first in a series of tragedies that has frozen the protagonists' sense of reality. Although the family moves from the pastoral Varmland region to a provincial town, a hallucinated Solveig returns to her grieving husband, Aron, during his antipodal romance while on his fatal journey to New Zealand. Sidner carries on his own doomed affair with an older woman who imagines herself in telepathic contact with a famous Swedish explorer. Compounding the theme of separation between parents and children, Sidner's simple uncle Torin believes he is the father of an illegitimate child, whom he affectionately kidnaps, and Sidner, in trying to retrace his father's last journey, leaves Victor to fantasize about Odysseus and Telemachus and their reunion. Harmonizing poetic, romantic, fantastic and realistic styles, Tunstrom imbues these characters with lyric individual voices in a sweeping polyphonous work of affecting intensity. (Feb.)
Reviewed on: 05/01/1995
Release date: 05/01/1995
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