A Blessed Child

A Blessed Child


By (author) Linn Ullmann

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  • Publisher: PICADOR
  • Format: Hardback | 256 pages
  • Dimensions: 135mm x 216mm
  • Publication date: 15 August 2008
  • Publication City/Country: London
  • ISBN 10: 0330447866
  • ISBN 13: 9780330447867
  • Sales rank: 1,628,798

Product description

Isak Lovenstad is a pioneering obstetrician - and a powerful, charismatic womanizer. Every summer he gathers his three daughters by different wives to the windswept Baltic island of Hammarso. Here Erika, Molly and Laura know, if only for the season, what it is to be a family, and here, in the society of other children, each undergoes the rites of growing up. Though many alliances form and dissolve, none is comparable to Erika's bond with Ragnar, a rebellious misfit whose intensity makes them inseparable. But when they turn fourteen, and their relationship threatens to relegate Erika to Ragnar's outcast state, she turns away suddenly - a common enough teenage betrayal that nonetheless precipitates an incident of such senseless cruelty as to alter forever each sister's life.Twenty-five years later, returning to Hammarso to see their father - now eighty-four and in year-round exile there - the three women confront, finally, the spectre of that awful summer whose mark each has since carried. Bold and starkly beautiful, "A Blessed Child" is a haunting parable of innocence lost. Praise for "Grace": 'Clear-sighted, large-hearted fiction without illusions but never without pity - or without humour' - "Independent". 'Extraordinarily fearless ...moving and convincing ...This is a work of the most intricate and impressive artistry' - "Independent on Sunday".

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Author information

Linn Ullmann is a graduate of New York University, where she studied English literature. She returned to her native Oslo in 1990, where she now lives with her husband and children and works as a journalist and literary critic.

Review quote

"Ullmann's sentences...are a pleasure to read and her deft modern sensibility is winning."--"The New York Times Book Review" "Linn Ullmann's A Blessed Child is a like a fine, long evening of light. There are all sorts of colors on the horizon, and even when the darkness becomes visible, there is still a place to turn to. This is a book for fathers and daughters, and for anyone who's beguiled by the country of family. The language is clear and runs deep. The story is profound and touching. Together, they announce another great story telling feat by Linn Ullmann. She reminds me of Berger, of Aciman, of Toibin: no greater praise."--Colum McCann, author of "Zoli: A Novel" "A world-famous octogenarian father approaching death, three daughters, each of a different mother, a windswept island in the Baltic: of these, of fragments of recollection, and of a childhood summer when an event of unimaginable cruelty changed everything, Linn Ullmann has woven a memory novel of haunting power and grace."--Honor Moore, author of "The Bishop's Daughter" "A hauntingly beautiful novel of family ties, A Blessed Child takes on what it means to be old, what it means to have loved selfishly, deeply and - equally - to no longer love. Linn Ullmann has crafted an inescapably evocative novel about memory, about childhood, about the movement of life, the nature of grief and the enormous mystery of love."--A.M. Homes, author of "The Mistress's Daughter" "A Blessed Child is a tour de force of, for want of a better way of putting it, narrative memory. In this nuanced and subtle and smart novel, the past and its tragedies are supervening over the present and its tragedies in wait, andeven the living can seem to inhabit a kind of timeless island of familial memory. The folding of time upon time upon time, however complexly difficult for the writer to achieve, creates an effect that is sure and beautiful. This is a novel about how people think, and about the things we think, and about how, finally, the manner and content of our thoughts may very well be pretty much who we are."--Donald Antrim, author of "The Afterlife: A Memoir" "A novel of stark beauty that leaves moral issues tantalizingly open."--"Kirkus Reviews"

Editorial reviews

A novel about growing up, growing older and trying to find some accommodation with the past.Oslo, Norway, resident Ullmann (Grace, 2005, etc.) creates a remote and craggy setting and inhabits it with Isak Lovenstad, an equally remote and craggy personality. Lovenstad is a prominent gynecologist with three daughters, each by a different mother. As his daughters were growing up, they spent time with him at his summer house on the fairly remote - but now increasingly touristy - Baltic island of Hammerso. In 2005 his eldest daughter, Erika, now 39, is going to visit her father on a bitterly cold and blustery December day, and she's persuaded Laura and Molly, her two half-sisters, to join her. For 25 years all three have been estranged from their father. While the first part of the narrative focuses on Erika's circuitous journey to the island and on her rocky domestic relationships, it becomes increasingly obsessed with flashbacks to the girls' summers on the island - part idyll, part nightmare. (Perhaps this fragmentation of time shouldn't be so surprising considering the author is the daughter of Ingmar Bergman, known for the chronological fluidity of his films.) We learn in particular of a strange boy named Ragnar, in some ways a double of Erika - born on the same day, almost at the same hour - but physically deformed, in contrast to Erika, the most beautiful of the three sisters. Still, Erika feels unaccountably attracted to Ragnar, to his strangeness and to his obvious alienation from society. When they're both 14, they meet for trysts at his out-of-the-way hut deep in the woods. Eventually, however, Erika, along with her sisters and with some friends she wants to impress, winds up betraying Ragnar in a horrifying way, and at a deep level she feels her father has abetted this betrayal. Her journey back to Hammerso is an attempt to reconstruct, and perhaps atone for, her past.A novel of stark beauty that leaves moral issues tantalizingly open. (Kirkus Reviews)