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The Ice Palace [Paperback]

Tarjei Vesaas , Elizabeth Rokkan
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)

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Book Description

June 27 2002 Peter Owen modern classics

This hauntingly beautiful novel deals in utmost simplicity of language and narrative with the paramount themes of most great literature: love, death, and the maturing of the individual. Two eleven-year-old girls, Siss and Unn, are separated at the very beginning of their friendship by the death of the latter in a strange, labyrinthine palace of ice.

This book was also made into an award-winning Norwegian film.

Tarjei Vesaas is generally regarded as one of the most important Norwegian authors since Knut Hamsun. Several times nominated and selected as one of the finalists for the Nobel Prize, Veassa was awarded the prestigious Venice Prize in 1952 and the Nordic Council's Literature Prize for The Ice Palace in 1963.

--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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From Publishers Weekly

The late Norwegian writer Vesaas (1897-1970) tells a simple yet profoundly stirring story of friendship, coming of age and death in a remote Norwegian village. The main narrator is Siss, a popular girl who befriends Unn, an orphan and a newcomer to the town. Drawn to each other despite their differences, they experience an almost mystical sense of unityp. 19 , but their tie is cut the next day when Unn, while playing alone, disappears into a "green ice palace" formed from a waterfall's frozen trickles of water. Siss feels haunted by the unspoken secrets they shared and struggles to come to terms with her friend's death as her own childhood vanishes. Vesaas's ( Birds ) understanding of child psychology gives his young characters emotional depth and strength. The growing, changing protagonists and the eerie, primeval surroundings are flawlessly revealed in lyrical prose and metaphors, as illustrated by Siss's observation as she takes a walk with Unn's aunt: "Across the imperfect screen of their eyes there glided tall trees that seemed to stretch out their arms in admonition; and pitch-black, stooping-shouldered rocks, moving like clenched fists towards their foreheads."
Copyright 1992 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

About the Author

Vesaas is generally regarded as one of the most important Norwegian authors since Knut Hamsun. Several times nominated for the Nobel Prize, he was awarded the prestigious Venice Prize in 1952 and the Nordic Council's Literature Prize for the book in 1963. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Most helpful customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Much like verbal accupuncture March 15 2014
By S Svendsen TOP 500 REVIEWER
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This is not a novel in the normal sense. It is a painting composed of words. Despite all its references to bright white ice and snow it has a persistent brooding aura of dark mental despair and a calamitous irredeemable finality about relationships and life itself.

Two eleven year old girls, Siss, an extrovert, the other, Unn, an introvert, are irrepressibly drawn to each other. Eventually, Unn, an orphan who has recently moved in with her aunt, invites Siss to her home. Soon they lock themselves in Unn’s bedroom to share each other’s deepest thoughts. But Siss becomes overwhelmed when Unn wants to reveal some mysterious, perhaps sinister secret. Siss departs in a hurry, breaching the delicate bond that has formed between them. Nevertheless Siss feels herself committed to place her relationship with Unn above all others. The following day Unn feels embarrassed and uncertain to face Siss and instead of going to school she elects to go wandering in the woods and to explore an ice palace formed by a frozen waterfall. Unn is never heard from again. Siss withdraws from her circle of friends; she is protective of Unn and the “secret” which she could have learned had she been more trusting and stayed longer that night. It was probably not Vesaas’ intention, but reading his narrative fifty years later, the mental and emotional attraction between Siss and Unn seems homopolar (i.e. nascent homosexual). Anyway, the reader can’t help but wonder for the rest of the book what Unn was hiding. Was it some trauma she had experienced, or was it something she wanted to experience with Siss? Did the fact that Unn wanted them both to get naked as soon as they were in her locked room provide a clue? Mystery is embedded in the iciness of this tale.

Unn’s disappearance hits Siss hard.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 4.7 out of 5 stars  15 reviews
15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars the burden of a secret June 27 1997
By A Customer - Published on
From the first sentence Tarjei Vesaas draws the reader into a world of icy chill and unspoken foreboding ,drawn with language as spare, beautiful and relentless as the wintry nordic landscape. Two girls on the brink of puberty experience a moment of furtive sexual and spiritual awakening that neither is emotionally prepared for; when one of them subsequently vanishes from her home the other is lost in a welter of guilt and confusion. An unusual and evocative exploration of emotional isolation, both real and self imposed
17 of 20 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Absolutely beautiful July 19 2000
By "margaretlamont" - Published on
A beautiful book. The imagery is lovely, and I got hooked when one of the characters actually wanders into the ice palace. The descriptions of the light, and the interplay of the changing colors and shapes of the ice were mesmerizing--I stayed up late and couldn't go to bed. And in the morning it seemed it should be all ice outside instead of the height of summer. Tremendously atmospheric, simply splendid. The first book in about six months to make it straight to my read-again shelf. And short--a quick read if you're busy.
7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Elegant, completely at ease with words March 8 2006
By Aleksandra Nita-Lazar - Published on
It is a beautiful piece of poetic prose. The innocent and simple story of two girls and their budding friendship broken by death is at the same time intense and calm. The descriptions of the surroundings, the ice palace at the waterfall, which claims Unn, together with the thoughts of Siss, create the Nordic climate, make the reader breathe the cold air, and show the world as a complicated and unyielding entity, strange for a little girl, hard to understand. Yet Siss understands somehow, her world gets in order and all the events have their place.

Only a poet can use words in such a beautiful fashion. This book was a sensual delight. Probably a great bonus is the translation, must have been not a trivial task!
5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Austere, Primeval, and Haunting Aug. 30 2004
By Not Mark Zuckerberg - Published on
Vesaas's book is beautiful.

His style is experimental and modern, which means that he presents information in a slightly elliptical way, perhaps one that more closely echoes the motions of actual consciousness. This means that you may have to read the same passage two or three times: there are very few topic sentences introducing clearly defined paragraphs. Luckily, his vocabulary is pitch-perfect: small words, chosen for precision rather than pretense.

A novel has two major components, one being the social background of the story and the other being the story itself. The background is crystalline and very, very Norwegian: a harsh climate; reserved, good people; an aura of isolation that may only come from years of cold. The story itself turns on a secret and a promise, and the young girl Siss's reaction to them: not a secret like those in Babysitters' Club books, nor like the secrets in a spy novel: but a compelling one, an all-encompassing one, one that drives people in a way that doesn't make sense in a wholly rational world and yet drives them all the same. I won't say more.

Highly recommended. Oh-- and read it quickly. Like, perhaps, Faulkner (though not as difficult), you'll lose track of what's going on if you take too much time between readings.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Chilling, revealing, unforgettable June 9 2013
By MurphysLaw58 - Published on
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
"After a while Siss began to feel Unn's eyes on her in class.... Siss felt it as a peculiar tingling in her body. She liked it so much she scarcely bothered to hide it. She pretended not to notice, but felt herself to be enmeshed in something strange and pleasant."

from "The Ice Palace" by Tarjai Vesaas

The story is simple: Siss is a popular 11-year-old girl. A new girl, Unn, sits by herself at the edge of the playground every day. Despite their differences, they are drawn to each other. Their first meeting is also their last. Afterward, Siss struggles to keep an impossible promise. She turns a corner in her life to find the connection between what she believes and what she feels.

The book is written with simple prose akin to poetry to describe the sensual awakening of a young girl. The presence of the ice palace kept me glued to the page. This beautiful and terrifying natural sculpture was yet another character in the book.
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