‘The novel never really gets going’ – Encircling by Carl Frode Tiller

ecftEncircling is the first part of a trilogy by the same name. At its centre is David Hugsar, a man in his thirties who seems to have completely lost his memory. Although the narrative is driven by David, he never actually features as the novel’s central character. Instead, we read a series of letters sent to him by past friends, all of whom are responding to an advert in the paper; his psychologist asking for people to share their memories with David and maybe bring him back to his past life.

We meet Jon and Silje, his two teenage friends, both of whom claim to have been his lover in their formative years. And we meet Arvid, previously his stepfather, who tells a story that seems to contradict most of what his friends have said about him. In fact, all three stories, rather than shedding light on David, create an air of mystery around him. The reasons for which remain unclear, although they do suggest themselves in the closing pages.

Alongside the letters, we delve deeper into the lives of their writers in first person present tense sections which talk about their lives today. It’s a potentially interesting way of telling a story, and often the letters looking back on David’s life are the novel’s most intriguing parts. But, apart from the story of Jon, there is so little to hold the interest in the present day sections. By the time we get to Silje in the closing section, there is barely anything left to drag us through. Questions arise about how a trilogy will even be possible.

Any Cop?: Despite a promising opening third with Jon, the novel never really gets going. The characters are a little dull, the contradictions a little too drastic, and the plot a little too light. I don’t think I’ll come back for part two.

Fran Slater


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