When Edvard Hirifjell is orphaned as a young boy in 1971, his grandfather steps into the breach and raises Edvard. Now, two decades later with Sverre's death, Edvard is primed and ready to embrace the mystery of his family history, particularly the circumstances of his parents' deaths. His quest, complete with puzzles and clues, will take him from his home in Norway to the Shetlands and the battlefields of WW1, ultimately delivering an unusual inheritance.
Spanning a century and intricately woven through with a love of wood, this is a complex story of family, divided loyalties, and a search for truth.
We all found this book compelling - the writing was very sensitive and thoughtful, but with some humour. A good choice!
Everyone thoroughly enjoyed it.
Two thirds of us finished the book. Some of us really liked it, others found it confusing and wondered if something was lost in translation. I liked the layers/complexity of the story.
We enjoyed the mystery of this book, and the writing, very much. The ending was a little ambiguous as were the motivations of one character in particular, at times things were possibly somewhat clumsy with the translation. Overall though, a great read and we would recommend it highly.
As you can see most of us really enjoyed this book. There was quite a lot of discussion about puzzles - cryptic in particular - and how the like or dislike ( or obsession!) influenced people's judgement on how much people liked the book. The description of rare wood and how it came to be was enjoyed by all. The harsh weather description was favorably commented on. But I do think that the like or dislike of mystery and puzzles definitely was the greatest influence on enjoyment....Otherwise it became annoying or longwinded or confusing.
Most of us enjoyed the narrative, and liked the way the plot developed like a detective story. Some found the pace erratic, and occasionally the phrasing a little clunky, maybe due to translation. Overall, a good, satisfying read.
Wonderfully translated book. The detail and the intricacies kept us all fully involved in this complex and interesting novel.
Enjoyed by everyone in the group, a great mystery that no one could predict. We loved learning more about Norway and the Shetlands from this great story!
An excellent read which led to a very interesting discussion.
We all loved this book!
An absorbing story on many levels with beautiful descriptions - lots of themes with interesting relationships. Complicated and challenging, we thoroughly enjoyed it!
We all enjoyed the book and had a good discussion, the topic was unusual as was the location. We noted how the author must have a great love and interest in wood. We didn't find it predictable, but occasionally we found it over complicated and far fetched with extraneous characters. The near sinking of the boat and near drowning by pulling the bung out in treacherous waters was rather unbelievable.
We all enjoyed this very complicated book with all its detail. Disappointed not to be able to get together to discuss it fully but several of the group read it twice as there was so much detail that was missed the first time around. Took a long time for the mystery to fully unfold but it was worth the wait. Highly recommended.
Divided opinions on this book. Negative comments included that it was overwritten and the strands overly complex. There was agreement that we had all learned new and interesting information on Norway, France and the Shetland Islands. Generated best discussion session yet within our group.
Everyone enjoyed this book, even though it was complicated at times. Members commented in regard to the fact that the author was writing about something he loved. Highly recommended.
Some of our members found this book a little confusing as it moved between era and locations but all enjoyed it never-the-less. It had a good twist to the story and kept our readers gripped with its mystery and surprises to the end. An intriguing side to family dynamics, and an interesting insight to the Shetland Islands, Norway and France.
This was a cleverly constructed story which perplexed some of us at times but overall was found very enjoyable. Mytting was at his best in describing place and circumstance, revealing a very different way of living from that we have experienced in NZ. The divisive allegiances of Norwegians during the war provided a back story of human passion, loss and recovery. Puzzling at times with contrivances gradually solving a mystery but leaving a question in the final chapter.
We all rated this as the most enjoyable book of the year. We enjoyed the many different strands within the plot, and the way in which the characters were skilfully developed. It generated discussion about Norway in particular, how families were torn apart by war and how they made best use of their primary resources i.e. wood. It also brought up parallels with NZ and talk about the Norwegian migrants here. Altogether a compelling read.
One reader described it as a 'great rambling story'. Some of us found it confusing but all agreed that it highlighted the tragic experiences people went through during both wars resulting in dividing families and towns for years after. The story spans 3 generations and 3 vastly different cultures with a broad sweep of history and family. We found the 'mystery' slightly contrived and disappointing but unanimously agreed that the translation was excellent. An enjoyable but not remarkable read.
Most people enjoyed this book and thought it was well written. Descriptions of places and woods stood out more than people though. A very slow moving mystery. And some felt parts of the story were contrived. A complicated and challenging read.
Overall a great read with beautiful poetic descriptions, the very first paragraph was such a touching comment of a son to his mother whom he never knew. Many twists and turns, some felt it a bit long and drawn out, a family tree would have been useful. Gwen was not liked as a character. We felt we were in the book, we learnt a lot about the geography of the Shetland Islands, Norway and the Somme and also the fact that members of some families in Norway sat on different sides of the fence in the war. Highly recommend this book.
Most enjoyed the story and its location. Others felt that the characters lacked realism. The title was rather a red herring and all were happy that this wasn't just another war story!
We thought that a real strength of the book was the setting, the places came to life even if the characters didn't always..... especially the women who were not that well developed. We felt that the plot could have been tighter, and was really only a tool to present a major theme - the on-going impact that the wars had on families and communities. On the whole though, a good read, enjoyed by most.
A complex and riveting tale; historically revealing and geographically expansive.
What a special book - enjoyed by all ( even those who otherwise avoid books on war/holocaust). A great start to our reading year.
Everyone thoroughly enjoyed the book. It was a complex story with an air of mystery. The story was woven around the trees and the description of the wood. A book that could easily be read again.
This book was very intricately constructed and many in our group felt very confused at the beginning. We all felt that either a timeline or a family tree would have helped us unravel the plot, but acknowledged that such information would work against the author's "slow reveal" of detail. We were impressed by the author's knowledge of wood, guns and wartime history, and by the way this knowledge was worked into the narrative... Everyone in the group thought the translator had done a magnificent job, and we found the notes very helpful.All in all we felt it was a challenging but worthwhile read.
We all enjoyed reading this book. The story/mystery unfolded slowly and kept us absorbed. A clever and very complicated mystery which also kept us 'on our toes' as the pace quickened towards the conclusion. Perhaps the character of Gwen is slightly unreal/overdone. Well translated to English. Excellent notes.
It is a rare meeting when we all say we loved it! We loved the piecing together of the puzzle, the interesting focus of the story and the well developed characterisation. We all felt we were transported to the place setting, as the description was so good. Highly recommended.
Some lack of 'fluidity', perhaps due to translation from Norwegian to English Memories and stories were sparked with the history of the World Wars. The complexity of the writing was attributed to the "long Norwegian nights", by a number of group members. The group enjoyed the writing and story overall, but did find it got a bit drawn out towards the end, and could have been resolved a bit more succinctly.
All enjoyed this, but felt it was a complex plot.
Book was enjoyed by all present at the meeting. Many-layered and complex and very riveting. Generated great discussion.
Great book that was enjoyed by all. History of the Somme, Norway and Shetlands interesting and the isolation of the latter was well demonstrated in the writing. The author wound his love of wood into this story. End a bit confusing and left you guessing!
We all enjoyed The Sixteen Trees on the Somme.It is a more demanding read than might be expected for what is basically an adventure/mystery story. The plot has many fine threads, and it is small pieces of information that ultimately fit together like a jigsaw puzzle. The characters are interesting, and the novel cleverly deals with two world wars, a present time setting in the 1990s, and three major physical settings. We all loved the sections set in the Shetland Islands - Mytting evokes the isolation and desolation of the islands brilliantly. The role of wood in the plot is intriguing ...