2 February 2010

Review: THE DARKEST ROOM, Johan Theorin


2009 Random House, translated by Marlaine Delargy, 438 pages, ISBN 978-0-385-34222-3

THE DARKEST ROOM is set on the island of Oland of the east coast of Sweden. On the eastern side of Oland are the twin lighthouses of Eel Point, one giving off a red light at night, the other a white light that rarely seems to work. Near the lighthouses just inland is the manor house built 150 years ago from the timbers of shipwrecks.
Katrine and Joakim Westin have bought the manor house and are in the process of moving permanently to the island from Oslo with their two children. Coincidentally Katrine's mother has also lived in this house and extracts from a journal she wrote lead us through the house's history.
Remember, when you take over an old house, the house takes you over at the same time.
This house has many stories to tell, many memories are hidden here, many names are inscribed on its timbers. Some of the stories are as old as the house itself.


On the night that Joakim goes back to Oslo to collect the last of their belongings tragedy strikes and one of their family dies.
But this isn't just the story of the Westins, but also of a young policewoman Tilda Davidsson who has been posted to Oland to provide a policing service. Through her taped interviews of one of the island's residents we piece together some of the episodes from the past.

This is one of those novels which is very difficult to review because there is so much in it. It requires the reader to at times set aside disbelief in the paranormal. You need to accept that there are times when the past can reach out into the present.

One of the fascinating things about this book is the way Theorin has built it from the founding of the manor house, and developed a chronology of the tragedies the house has witnessed from then to the present day. He interweaves historical episodes from Katrine's mother's journal with current chronology. The result is a patchwork of folklore, community memory, and modern day realism. The result is engrossing.

My rating: 5

Other reviews you might enjoy:


Read the first chapter of THE DARKEST ROOM online.
Read my review of ECHOES FROM THE DEAD - my rating 4.9

7 comments:

Bernadette in Australia said...

Sounds excellent Kerrie. This one is already on Mt TBR but leaping to the top with reviews like this.

Margot Kinberg said...

Kerrie - What a fabulous review : )! Thank you. Theorin's been recommended to me more than once, but, like Bernadette, I'm using your review as a "nudge" to move this one further up on my TBR list.

Kay said...

I had not heard of this author or this book, but I really like the sound of it. I notice it is available for my Kindle and may purchase it that way. Thanks for sharing, Kerrie!

Louisiana said...

what is your felling in a black and DARKEST ROOM...where you are alone.

Susan said...

I came here to read your review of it after it won the Dagger. Excellent review! Now top of my list of books to buy and read next, too. Thank you! I also have Echoes From the Dead on my TBR pile. Can't wait, now!

Hannah said...

Oslo? the author is frrom Sweden, right? Oslo is the capital of Norway.

Kerrie Smith said...

Born in Sweden see Wikipedia with family ties to Oland.
Oslo is not so far from the Swedish border though.

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