Norstedts, 2008. ISBN: 9789113018348
Reviewed by Marie Allen in SBR 2008:2
Erik and Lotta have been close friends since they met as teenagers during a skiing holiday with their families. Though they are complete opposites – Lotta, colourful, attractive, wild and popular; Erik quiet, unassuming, ordinary and deep, their friendship has always been solid and unquestioned. They exchange qualities: he gets energy from her in return for some of his thoughtfulness. They are there for each other, through the years, the ups and the downs.
Lotta bounces between endless romances and sexual experiences, whilst Erik struggles to find a lasting relationship. Whenever Lotta needs a shoulder to cry on, Erik is there to comfort her. Distraught about yet another failed attempt at love, she asks him to go away with her. Anywhere will do. He sees his chance to fulfil a dream of discovering Iceland, and so they set off on a journey, which proves to be a real test of their stamina both physically and mentally. Will their easy friendship endure this strange and unpredictable holiday?
Trapped on Iceland’s treacherous icy roads, far from the cosiness of Reykjavik’s expensive bars and nightlife, they are forced to see each other in a new light. The close proximity and encounters along the road strip away the layers that normally cushion their true feelings and personalities. And there is the constant interruption of Lotta’s mobile text alerts. And her smoking. Erik regretfully thinks to himself, "you should never go on a journey with someone you really care about. Travelling with someone is like quickly spoiling a marriage".
This debut novel by Erik Helmersson paints a detailed and dramatic picture of Iceland, as good as any promotional literature for the country, exploring the myths and legends as well as its history and nature. The main characters are complex enough both in their own ways and their interaction to keep one interested in whether they will become lovers or enemies. That they will remain friends in the same sense as they were at the journey’s start, is out of the question. Why? Too much baggage accompanies them and too much of it is unpacked along the way.
This is a story about dreams, illusions, hidden and expressed emotions and frustrations. At the centre is the solid and natural friendship that these two very different people have shared for fifteen odd years, which is suddenly at stake in a new and challenging environment, something the two characters had never foreseen or imagined. How much can a friendship withstand? And how much is it really worth?