At the start of the seal-hunting season a sailboat leaves the quay at Tromsø. On board is a young, newly qualified vet on her first tour of inspection for The Fisheries Department. She is alone with a crew of seal-catchers and hunters, and will be with them in the icy wilderness around Greenland for six weeks.
The narration in To the Western Ice (Til Vestisen) is vigorous on every page, consistent in style and shocking and uncompromising in content.
‘With the help of subdued language rich with association, and brief, vivid flashbacks to events out at sea in the arctic, the author builds the tension with a sure hand. First and foremost it is the intensity and spare prose that combine to distinguish this novel from others. ... Tor Even Svanes writes in a confident style, developing a well-planned plot in To the Western Ice, a novel that deserves to be read by many.’
‘The book effectively draws the reader into the inspection of Norwegian seal hunting in Greenland. The claustrophobic opening is remarkably good ... Rather than telling the story chronologically, Svanes creates a narrative that provides an uncomfortably clear impression of Mari’s claustrophobia on board the ship as she reacts to the wounding and mistreatment of seal pups. The beginning of the novel leaps back and forth between various periods of time, interspersed with fragmented scenes of an interview taking place after events, and forcing the reader to engage directly with Mari’s own anxiety. It is well-executed. ... An almost faultless novel. The book forces the reader to experience the fear.’
“The particularly masculine combination of brutality and feline craftiness is skilfully and ruthlessly described. Combining this psychological warfare with the description of the ship and the sea, Svanes earns a place in the darkest corner of seafaring literature … To the Western Ice is outstandingly well written and offers a concentrated presentation of the almost watertight bulkhead between social classes in a country where amazingly many naïve souls believe that all are alike.”
‘He carries the sequences of the plot forward in short sentences, taking the reader with him. Unease takes hold. It is done well, and identification with the main character is supreme. What could have been artificial and affected is instead an organic text. And it all really rests on a simple premise: The author knows when to stop.’
'Svanes borrows techniques from thriller literature and creates an intense and concentrated psychological drama in the confines of the seal-hunting ship, where anything can happen at any time. To the Western Ice is a significant, consistent, uncompromising and disturbing novel.'
'To the Western Ice takes the reader on an uncomfortable and claustrophobic journey by ship from Tromsø to the Western Ice – the great icy wastes – to hunt for seals. … Svanes has written a really good novel. With skillful use of narrative technique and language and a tight grasp of the theme, he creates a literary space which almost steps forward to within touch of the reader … The paranoia becomes tactile in step with Mari’s growing feeling of finding herself in no-mans-land, cut off from the rest of the world. This novel is so disconcerting that it could be a good alternative to reading a traditional crime novel.'
'The convincing description runs remarkably parallel to the nastiness and animosity which are being fought out on board the ship. Svanes has an impressive talent for describing the psychological torture and the unbalanced relationship between the leader and the rest of the personnel. He is at his best when he writes about the brutal and intense, and his elegant writing succeeds in using the wide open icy wastes of the Arctic to create a feeling of claustrophobia.'
'A stark presentation of seal-hunting on the Greenland ice – and of being a woman in a tough masculine environment … Svanes succeeds both in describing the coarse male milieu in its own terms and in tracing the female inspector’s reactions with sensitive understanding … The story is built up like a psychological thriller, with changes in time and perspective adding to the fascination and excitement.'
´Svanes has written a violent and disturbing "arctic-noir"-thriller.´
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