I skipped reading this month’s book club selection. Is that bad? It’s just that I’d already read Atonement, a mere two years ago, and I really wanted to start Tolstoy’s War and Peace and To Siberia by Norwegian author Per Petterson.
I read Petterson’s Out Stealing Horses last fall and was swept away by the author’s sharp imagery and captivating prose. From the first few pages I could tell it was just the sort of dark, moody Norwegian novel I was going to love. It captures the solitude and yearnings of the protagonist, 67-year-old Trond Sander, so well as he settles into an old cabin in the forest. There he reflects on his life, and the book takes the reader back and forth between Trond’s present experiences and those of his youth. At the heart of it, Out Stealing Horses is a father-son story and one of aging, reflection, and loss. As a teenager, Trond spends months at a time with his father at a cabin in the woods, and during one of those visits he starts to learn things his dad had kept hidden from the family, including his involvement in the Norwegian Resistance in World War II. As an adult, as Trond moves from the city into a fixer-up cabin where he plans to spend the rest of his days, something happens that reminds of his past and the reader is invited to join him on a journey of reflection.
Similarly, To Siberia takes the reader to 1940s Denmark, as the narrator recounts life before, during, and after the war through her relationship with and separation from her older brother, Jesper. It’s a lonely, melancholy book, but beautifully written. Petterson has such an incredible way of bringing a character to life on the page and letting the reader see the protagonist inside and out.
I finished reading To Siberia the other day, but it’ll be months before I finish War and Peace. In the meantime I’d better start reading next month’s book club selection, Murder on the Orient Express.
In the meantime for you, here’s a recipe for sugared cranberries with a bite of cardamom, a spice often used in Norwegian baked goods.
Having a book club is a fun way to share treats with friends. Since my husband and I don’t eat a lot of sweets, when I bake we end up with more food than we know what to do with. So I’d like to thank my book club friends for helping us out in that regard!
The way these pop in one’s mouth is such a treat. A mix of tart and sweet, I find them terribly addicting. I was inspired to make them last fall when I tasted sugared cranberries that the stage manager at work brought to a rehearsal. I colld taste cardamom in the sugar, and filed the idea away.
12 ounces fresh cranberries
4 cups water
4 cups sugar
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
2 teaspoons ground cardamom
superfine sugar, for coating
cardamom, for coating (optional)
Bring the water, sugar, cinnamon, and cardamom to a boil in a medium saucepan and stir until the sugar dissolves. Add them to a bowl with the cranberries and let them sit for at least 8 hours in the refrigerator. Spread sugar (mixed with a some cardamom if you’d like an extra bit of spice) on a plate. Drain cranberries and, working in batches, roll them in the sugar to coat. Spread them on a baking sheet and let dry.