Vigdis Hjorth has written a stunning and insightful book about one of the most important events in a human’s life – becoming an adult and growing independent, even when it hurts others.
There is a rhythm in Paula’s life – the meals at the table at home, going skiing in the wilderness with hot toddy and icy breath, the summers at the cabin in Østfold, raspberry bushes and cold-water swimming, the visits to grandma on the West Coast – a rhythm which offers her safety and clarity throughout her childhood. Mother, father, sister, and brother in their little house are the most important people in her life. And then there is Karen, her best friend.
The calm is shattered the summer that Paula discovers the pile of letters her mother has written to grandma. The life her mother describes in the letters is unrecognisable: It says her sister Elisabet performed well in her exams, while in reality she failed them; it says that Elisabet sung a solo at the Christmas recital, which she did not; and it says that the father has been promoted to the head of his office. Paula is barely mentioned.
Her mother’s pretense is a shock to Paula, who is now surrounded by the lies of an adult’s making. How should she relate to her mother? Who can she be in the family now? Paula is on the edge of becoming a teenager, and the world is opening up before her as both a terrible and wonderful place. She doesn’t want to believe in the god her mother pretends she believes in. She doesn’t want to start lying about her life.
Vigdis Hjorth once again writes about a young life, like she’s done previously in amongst others the novel Third Person Singular, even if Paula’s life is significantly different from Hulda Kråkefjær’s. The portrayal of Paula’s childhood and youth may also bring your thoughts to the powerful childhood depictions of Tove Ditlevsen and Tove Jansson. We believe this novel will be read with great joy for many decades. A future classic.
«... a beautiful coming-of-age novel about existenstial anxiety and the rebellion against conventions.»
«... this will go straight to the heart to most who has once been 15 years old.»
«The language is also unmistakably Hjorthian where it trickles away like a steep stream during the spring thaw.»
«... a riveting story.»
Stavanger Aftenblad, *****
«What everyone wants to know, of course, is if this is Hjorth at her best. Yes, I think this is Hjorth at her best.»
«When it comes down to it, Vigdis Hjorth knows how to write atmosphere and family relations.»
«Hjorth is not afraid to appear heartfelt when she's describing the moment where a teenager discovers that the world is not only wonderful, but also difficult.»
«... the author is in complete control of the language, the rhythm, the repetitions and iterations and everything that creates energy – in contrast to calmer, lighter sections, especially situations where Paula seeks and communicates with the nature around her.»
«Fifteen years is [Vigdis Hjorth's] most well-written novel yet.»
«Vigdis Hjorth does it again.»
«Fifteen Years in all its deft brevity (188 pages, not a word too much, not a word too little) is simultaneously a fully developed portrait of a girl and an existential novel about finding one's own core. It is all written with a linguistic excess that makes every sentence shine with prosaic care, and on almost every page Vigdis Hjorth trumps through points or formulations that are worth dwelling on.»
«Vigdis Hjorth once again succeeds at depicting existential issues so that it hurts, but with a characteristic humor that characterizes the authorship.»
«On the list of recommended books that dig and gnaw at the eternally fascinating mind of a young girl, one can safely write Vigdis Hjorth's novel about Paula.»
«... Vigdis Hjort's gaze at the family as an institution is exactly as penetrating as it usually is, and she mercilessly peels away all the notions and narratives that we falsely and painstakingly
build around us.»
Kristeligt Dagblad, Denmark
«The trump card of the novel is that Vigdis Hjorth has made her protagonist extremely reflective about her positioning in the family landscape. Along the way, she fights a silent struggle for liberation to become an independent young woman through gifted musings and considerations. It is written so convincingly that as a reader I was completely absorbed by the reality that unfolds inside the mind of a very young woman.»