The Unseen, by Roy Jacobsen
The characters of The Unseen, the first book of Roy Jacobsen’s series The Barrøy Chronicles, eke out a difficult existence farming and fishing on the tiny island off the coast of Norway that has belonged in their family for generations. We watch the central character Ingrid grow through a series of unexpected tragedies from a little girl to the resourceful, albeit too-young matriarch of her tiny domain. Though access to the outside world demands a dangerous sea-crossing, its influence is nevertheless felt through pressures to attend school and seek wage-labour for cash to augment their precarious subsistence.
Though there are many scenes of peril on the dangerous ocean, overall the pace of this book is slow, each chapter a vignette crammed with gorgeous details about everyday survival in this harsh environment. But coming to its end, the reader is conscious of having witnessed a great change to the world reflected the microcosm of these character’s lives. The Barrøy Chronicles have been extremely popular in Norway in their original language, and it is a delight to see them being gradually translated into English.