The Saga of Gosta Berling, by Selma Lagerlöf (audio)

gosta berling pictureI don’t begin to know how to describe this book. It starts as the tale of a priest, Gosta Berling, as he’s dismissed from his post and goes to live in a new place. He’s taken in by a woman runs a boarding house, and from there, the book fragments into little stories about each of the people around Gosta. He remains a central character, but this was almost more like a collection of related stories than a novel with a central plot. Partway through listening to it, I began to think of it as a cross between Cranford and Beowulf (how’s that for interesting?).

Because this book is so different from what I’m used to reading, I don’t begin to know how to pick it apart and understand all the pieces. Instead, I just loved hearing each new little story. There are so many different kinds of tales: stories of a woman cursed by a witch and who can’t go outside for fear of being eaten by magpies; stories of a bear that no one is able to shoot; stories of a couple chased by wolves through the snow. Some of the stories are realistic. Some are like the ghost stories you hear told around a campfire. Some are more like old fables or fairy tales, with a lesson to be learned from our actions. And yet, all the different types of stories came together and worked as a single cohesive whole! My favorite included one of the other borders, an old man who has painted piano keys on a wooden board. He uses his “piano” to “play” Beethoven, and believes his “music” can help lift depression from a man’s soul. In this particular scene, Gosta has been very depressed and the old man plays for him until he is laughing and happy again.

I downloaded the audio from Librivox, read by Lars Rolander, and it was an excellent performance. I rarely listen to Librivox recordings because of their amateur quality, but this one was all the same reader and he did a wonderful job.

About Amanda

Agender empty-nester filling my time with cats, books, fitness, and photography. She/they.
This entry was posted in 2011, Adult, Prose and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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