Translated from by

Published: February 13, 2018


ISBN: 978-0914671-94-7
    ebook (pdf)


Book Description

Love is the story of a single mother, Vibeke, and her son Jon, who have just moved to a remote small town in the north of Norway. It’s the day before Jon’s birthday, but with concerns of her own, Vibeke has forgotten this. With a man on her mind, she ventures to the local library while Jon goes out to sell lottery tickets for his sports club. From here on we follow the two individuals on their separate journeys through a cold winter’s night, their experiences nevertheless linked in seamless narrative. The reader is privy to each character’s intimate thoughts as suspense builds and tragedy looms. Translator Martin Aitken has done a beautiful job of capturing the raw power, rhythms, and electricity of Ørstavik’s prose.

[A] haunting masterpiece... The deceptively simple novel is slow-burning, placing each character into situations associated with horror—entering an unfamiliar house, accepting a ride from a stranger—and the result is a magnificent tale.

Publishers Weekly, starred review

Love is Hanne Ørstavik’s strongest book.

Karl Ove Knausgaard

In this swift, elegantly constructed novel, Hanne Ørstavik masterfully conveys a sense of entwined dread and longing that doesn’t let up for a second. From the opening page to the powerfully moving finale, this tale of a mother and son is riveting. The characters’ inner lives are illumined by a beautiful eeriness, and the translation’s precision and clarity do justice to the novel’s intensities. Read it: it’ll bat around your brain for a long time afterward.

Martha Cooley

Love is hard, clear, merciless, and utterly compelling – a prism of the many daily ways we miss each other.

Rebecca Dinerstein

Hanne Ørstavik crafts an atmosphere of unease out of the ordinary. An old man giving a young boy a pair of skates, a man inviting a woman over for coffee, in Ostavik’s hands these seemingly harmless moments become filled with an underlying sense of dread. Longing and loneliness fill these pages, while always there is a sense of the impossibility of real understanding and connection between people. Ørstavik is a true observer of human nature and Love is her masterpiece.

Emily Ballaine, Green Apple Books on the Park

Prizewinning Norwegian Ørstavik follows the parallel courses of a single mother and her 8-year-old son during a night that moves unrelentingly toward tragedy... A nightmarish sense of impending doom hangs over these carefully detailed, tightly controlled pages... icy cold to the core.

Kirkus Reviews

[Ørstavik] gives nothing away for free, there is no overdriven emotion, no sentimentality nor pandering to her public. . . . But thanks to a language rich in its precision, with no loss of simplicity, it becomes an experience to follow her to her conclusion. One knows that one has read something substantial which one would not wish to be without.

Love explores the insurmountable distance between people, the elementary impenetrability of them, and tells us about the difficulty of reading the signals of others. In short, dry sentences, Ørstavik relates all the postponed, the possibilities that hang over our lives.


Point of view works like a spot of living light in this slender book, with deft perspective shifts occurring between Vibeke, a hardworking, distracted mother, and Jon, her curious, lonely young son, on nearly every page. Mother and son are each on a separate journey, but the reader watches their whole shared life, as memories are folded expertly between breaths in Orstavik's urgent, visually vivid present tense--what a lovely shape. Nothing is wasted. And I'm astonished by the precision and poetry of Martin Aitken's translation from the Norwegian.

Gina Balibrera, Literati Bookstore

Written with a precise elegance...builds to an ending as lonely as our characters. Beautiful and affecting, no word is wasted in this perfect winter read.

Kelsey Westenberg, Pilsen Community Books

Once in a while, there comes a book that takes you by surprise. An unassuming, low-key, seemingly ordinary novel which turns into an experience that makes you fully understand why you love reading so much. … Ørstavik’s writing is impeccable, perfect, as haunting as the beauty of her homeland…[Love] will leave you speechless, the way a well-written novella has to do..this one of the most beautiful books I’ve read this year.

Amalia Gavea, The Opinionated Reader

[A] creeping sense of unease is racheted up by the cool, lucid prose and how the paragraphs shift between mother and son, clarifying how close they should be and how close they aren’t... Multi-award winner Ørstavik offers an unsettling read that most will enjoy.

Barbara Hoffert, Library Journal

As is often the case, sobriety is the condition of emotion: Hanne Ørstavik has perfectly put into practice this principle to offer a beautiful novel simple and subtle, meditative and moving.

A.N., L'Humanité

Love is effectively atmospheric... neatly textured with its back and forths... A disturbing little read, nicely, darkly told.

Michael Orthofer, The Complete Review

Love can change everything. And it does in this edgy, elegiac and beautifully written novel...What you think will happen doesn't—and what does breaks your heart.

Kerri Arsenault,

Ørstavik invites the readers into her two characters’ innermost thoughts, seamlessly switching back and forth between their perspectives— often within the same paragraph. Their stories unfold breathlessly close together on the page, suggesting the strong link between mother and son that Vibeke’s actions betray.... a creeping sense of tragedy brews within the story...Though Love is only one hundred and twenty-five pages, its careful craft and beautiful details make it worth savoring—right to its haunting but inevitable conclusion.

Samantha Aper, Zyzzyva

What was so striking to me about this slim novel was how quiet and circumspect it was given the emotional gut punch it delivered. ‘Deceptive’ is right, sneaky even, and at the risk of falling into the trap of stereotyping Norwegian lit, the power of quietly mushrooming foreboding is strong with Ørstavik. As I happen to be flying over the dark and snowy north of Norway as I write this, looking out my window at the icy fjords below, I feel the creep, even at 35,000 feet.
M. Bartley Seigel, Words Without Borders

Love is a beautiful novella of beguiling simplicity, and Martin Aitken’s translation has brought it over into an English that is both familiar and alien.

Erik Noonan, Asymptote

"What could be a simple family story is instead filled with foreboding and anxiety, showcasing the marvels and dangers pulsating just below the surface in our everyday lives. Longing and hopefulness fills these brief pages, leaving readers with a sense of wonder for the average: how a day can be so filled with newness and potential, with menace and tragedy.

Laura Farmer, The Gazette

Hanne Ørstavik’s exquisite Love, so elemental in its materials and technique, embodies a profound recognition – namely that every search for clarity and connection must proceed through the full awareness of what constrains us.

Ron Slate, On The Seawall

From the first page, Ørstavik’s understated prose and sparse dialogue trace a relationship between mother and son that is as dry and powdery as Jon’s failed snowballs. As the novel flits effortlessly between these two points of view, the reader is swept up in two separate egos, each on a muted quest for the human connections they are unable to accept from each other....Martin Aitken is to be applauded for so conscientiously bringing this soft-spoken, full-hearted novel into the English language.

The Arkansas International

Love is a book that uses sophisticated literary techniques to harrow readers and keep us in a state of trepidation (and confusion) on these points, right up until its final pages, breathlessly uncertain of the outcome.

Abe Nemon, The Old Book Appreciator

The effect of Orstavik’s narrative, alternating abruptly between Jon’s story and that of his mother, is beautifully devastating. The prose (wonderfully translated) and pacing set a tone of foreboding tension and impending doom. A short, but very deep, and vibrantly alive novel.

Lori, Interabang Books

Love is a book that uses sophisticated literary techniques to harrow readers and keep us in a state of trepidation (and confusion) on these points, right up until its final pages, breathlessly uncertain of the outcome.

The Old Book Appreciator

In an interview with Romanian critic Silvia Dumitrache, Ørstavik discusses how her own experiences being a single mother informed the writing of Love.

Translator Martin Aitken discusses the urge that compelled him to leave academia for the world of literary translation in an interview for the Santa Fe Writers Project, Translator’s Cut.

“The novel is as tightly constructed as a box, and this is as sly a bit of unreliable narration as I have read in a long while,” writes Nicholas Lezard, literary critic for The Guardian in this review where he handpicks Ørstavik’s English debut, The Blue Room, translated from the Norwegian by Deborah Dawkin, as one of the best paperbacks of 2014.

Read an excerpt from Ørstavik’s The Blue Room.

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