The Castle in the Pyrenees

Jostein Gaarder, trans. by James Anderson. Weidenfeld & Nicolson, $24.95 (250p) ISBN 9780297859444
Gaarder's epistolary novel is a broadly drawn exploration of weighty themes. Solrun and Steinn, who had been lovers in their early twenties, reunite thirty years later at the hotel where they had their final weekend together. In their ensuing email correspondence, they discuss issues of spirituality, atheism, creation, the destruction of the planet, their feelings for each other, and confessions about why they parted. The couple had been involved in a hit-and-run accident with an elderly woman. Later, while walking through the woods, consumed by guilt, they see the woman's spirit, which absolves them. This supernatural incident drives the final wedge between them as Solrun embraces her spirituality and Steinn runs into the arms of scientific rationality. The novel treads familiar philosophical grounds while still seeming vaguely plausible as an interaction between estranged lovers. Though Gaardner does do a good job exploring issues of life and death and the origins of the universe through the urgent modern lens of climate change, readers don't learn much about Solrun or Steinn beyond their positions on spirituality and rationality. Gaarder raises good points in his philosophical exercise, but the result reads more like a philosophical treatise than a novel, and he fails to accomplish the basic goals of establishing setting and character. (Aug.)
Reviewed on: 08/01/2011
Release date: 05/01/2010
Genre: Fiction
Paperback - 224 pages - 978-0-7538-2770-3
Open Ebook - 224 pages - 978-0-297-85946-8
Paperback - 250 pages - 978-0-7538-2769-7
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