I’m delighted to be sharing my review of Resin by Ane Riel today. This is a novel that has been languishing on my bookshelf for far too long, but one that I read in a single day once I started it. It’s a dark and surreal tale that I found it to be utterly captivating.
Liv died when she was just six years old. At least, that’s what the authorities think.
Her father knew he was the only one who could keep her safe in this world. So one evening he left the isolated house his little family called home, he pushed their boat out to sea and watched it ruin on the rocks. Then he walked the long way into town to report his only child missing.
But behind the boxes and the baskets crowding her Dad’s workshop, Liv was hiding. This way her Dad had said, she’d never have to go to school; this way, she’d never have to leave her parents.
This way, Liv would be safe.
Resin is an unusual novel, and it’s one where my attention was immediately captured by the opening sentence:
The white room was completely dark when my dad killed my granny.
This is the story of six-year-old Liv Horder, who lives with her family on a small peninsula that is only accessible by a narrow track. The treatment of Liv by her parents, Jens and Maria, is by no means normal, and yet, as I read on, I came to understand that everything they did was done out of a sense of love. It might be a love that borders upon obsession, but I think that they did have good intentions, and the decisions they made were only ever intended to keep Liv safe from the dangers of the outside world. I feel that I should point out that Liv is not physically abused – it’s not that kind of novel at all. She leads a content (not knowing of any alternative), if unconventional, life, and everything that the family does is driven by a desire to keep the family together.
Resin is told predominantly from the Horder family’s perspective, and I felt that Riel brought Liv to life brilliantly. She comes as across as being older than her age suggests at times, but in other ways seemed much younger, and I felt that her character perfectly portrayed her unusual upbringing. The reader also sees letters from Maria to Liv, which help to explain the situation and why her parents made the decisions that they did. These are shared at intervals and help to give additional context to the events, as well as explaining the reasoning behind Jens and Maria’s actions.
While the reader doesn’t see as much of Maria other than her letters, the reader does get to see events from Jens’ perspective, and it’s clear that he is a deeply troubled character. His own father died when he was young, and this, combined with his older brother leaving shortly afterwards, sows the seed for what follows as Jens struggles to cope and becomes ever more withdrawn from society. It doesn’t happen instantly, but this is an accurate and shocking portrayal of an individual struggling to cope and the impact that this may have. While I, as the reader, couldn’t agree with his actions, I was sympathetic towards his plight.
Riel evokes the isolation and the wilderness of the Horder’s peninsula brilliantly, and it’s clear that the location plays a part in the events. The nearest town is populated with people who believe that one’s problems should be kept to oneself and where issues aren’t discussed openly, except in the broadest terms. It’s an outdated mentality, and one which is thankfully beginning to change, but Resin perfectly highlights the dangers of not talking about your state of mind, or not seeking to help those who might be suffering, even if it’s just to ask how they are.
Resin tackles some dark themes, and there are parts that make for unpleasant reading, but it’s a novel that will stay with me for some time. It’s a beautifully written and original tale, and one that I can’t recommend enough.