Review: The Cold Song

The Cold Song
The Cold Song
By Linn Ullmann
(Other Press, Paperback, 9781590516676, April 8, 2014, 352pp.)

The Short of It:

Elegant and sophisticated with flawed, well-constructed characters.

The Rest of It:

Jon & Siri and their two young daughters return each summer to Siri’s childhood home, just south of Oslo. Mailund, the big white house, has been in the family for years and although not in perfect shape, gives them a break from their everyday existence. This time around, Jon has come to finish his novel. A task that seems impossible due to many things, but mainly the writer’s block that he regularly complains of. But there is a lot more going on. Jon’s affair with a woman down the street is what takes him out of the house on a regular basis, and even though he often tells his wife that he’s “walking the dog”, Siri is aware of his philandering ways and yet, doesn’t say anything to him, hoping that he’ll come to his senses.

That alone is enough material for a novel but The Cold Song does not stop there. Milla, a young girl hired to care for the children, becomes Jon’s obsession. Although their interactions are innocent enough, the tension is palpable whenever these two are in the room with one another. Milla, is also the focus of Alma, Jon and Siri’s twelve-year-old daughter. Alma seems to note the connection between Milla and her father right away, but Alma is not all there and has issues of her own to contend with. When Milla goes missing, the town is turned upside down trying to solve the mystery and Milla’s mother, Amanda, is convinced that Jon and Siri have something to do with her disappearance.

This is not a flashy, in your face, detective story or a story about a broken marriage. It’s a beautifully constructed story centered around flawed (VERY) flawed characters trying to find their place as the situations around them escalate out of control. These are not the types of friends that I’d like to have, ever, but man, did they make for some good reading. I wouldn’t say that anyone in this house is normal, except maybe the dog but their interactions with each other are awkward and sometimes disturbing and somehow it all works.

What I liked most about this novel is that it’s not any one thing. It’s not a mystery, or a romance or any of the genres that you typically think of when classifying a novel.

Have you read it? Have you read any books by Other Press before? I’ve read at least four and all of them surprised me in a good way.

Source: Sent to me by the publisher via Edelweiss.
Disclosure: This post contains Indiebound affiliate links.

11 thoughts on “Review: The Cold Song”

    1. It was very good. I wish I had written the review right after reading it, because I’m sure that some of the details have slipped my mind but I am still thinking about the book, which is always a good sign.


    1. Well, I  mentioned that none of them would ever be friends of mine, but I felt that they were genuinely flawed. They came across as real, even though they were not likable.   


  1. This book sounds great! I think I’m getting into books that look at varying family issues (I’m currently reading Where’d You Go Bernadette) and this one sounds good too. I might look into this book too! …and I like flawed characters.

    I see that you’re going to be reading Tenant of Wildfell Hall. The Bronte sisters are so good. Enjoy!

    1. Wildfell Hall is the book club pick for next month. I hope to finish it quickly because The Goldfinch is right after it and I know I am going to need time for that one.    Visit my blog: Book Chatter


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