One’s Own Children
NORLA Selected Focus Title
It’s June and Anja and her boyfriend Pål are on their way to the smallholding in Sweden that Anja still co-owns with her ex-husband Ivar. It’s going to be a weekend of hard work – the cladding needs to be cleaned and painted. Ivar and his partner Solveig are there too, as are all the children.
When Lotte heard about joint weekend of work at the smallholding, she said:
‘I don’t get why you’re coming too, I don’t get why you and Dad are pretending to be friends.’ We were eating dinner, her stabbing a meatball with her fork. She’s fourteen.
‘You hate each other’s guts, can’t you just carry on like that?’
The accusation brought me to the brink of tears. I could barely speak.
‘We do not,’ I said, ‘and we never have.’
One’s Own Children is about ambitions and disappointments, pretensions and revelations. About our search for belonging and meaning, for intoxication and transgression. About children and the power one has – and doesn’t have – over them; about responsibility and a longing for freedom. And about the joy and love that arrives in flashes, almost at random.
«Trude Marstein manages like few others to portray life in a family with children from previous marriages and let us in on the most private thoughts and relationships. She describes the constellation of the modern family with insight, empathy and intimacy, and with her sharp, precise sentences gives expression to everyday life, with its jumble of shattered dreams and ambitions, its many hopes and disappointments, our search for meaning and recognition, and not least the ambivalent feelings we can harbour for those closest to us, even our own children. She skewers the unfairness in our closest ties as she describes the wreck of Anja’s relationship, not least when the children’s perception of reality clashes completely with Anja’s own. She delicately depicts the moments in which love and affection reign, but at the same time she is not afraid to expose its flipside and the great sacrifices it demands. It is one of the most riveting and honest novels we have read about being a mother and woman in one’s middle years, about trying to find a home in a life where work, desire, motherhood and writing have to exist side by side with the many demands that come at us from every angle.»
«Superb, relentless family drama. [...] The reader is left on tenterhooks as Trude Marstein gathers the modern family for a weekend of work at their smallholding.»
«Trude Marstein’s wise, never resting gaze puts the contradictions in our relationships, and in our love for our children, on display.»
«Trude Marstein is a master at creating fiction characters who are mildly unpleasant. The title of her new novel, One’s Own Children, immediately sparks expectations about the conspiratorial cliché ‘my children/other people’s children’. Marstein’s ability to capture modern lifestyle problems – in this case stepchildren and stepparents – is highly relatable.»
«How do we grasp who we are when the key to understanding is something as fleeting as our own desire? Marstein depicts societal changes from within, as the stories of individuals, through strong, vulnerable, serially monogamous, heterosexual narrators. They don’t even come close to having a perspective of their own or other people’s lives. They tell their stories nevertheless. The result is writing of a high literary standard, full of trivial details about everyday life for Norwegians – and insights into social relations.»
«Marstein's novel offers an impressively wide register of emotions that can be brought to life within a family...»