Cover image for The cold song
The cold song
Ullmann, Linn, 1966-
Personal Author:
Uniform Title:
Dyrebare. English
Publication Information:
New York : Other Press, [2013]

Physical Description:
328 pages ; 21 cm
"Some years after the disappearance of a young woman, three boys uncover her body during a treasure hunt out in the woods of Norway. THE COLD SONG centers itself on the individual lives of a small family and the murder of this woman, their babysitter, Milla. In life, Milla's relationship with the family is constructed by the many details that come to implicate each character in her murder, implications that haunt them all once her body is found. Milla, whom no one thought much of, seemed to set everything and everyone in motion, and after the crime against her is brought to light, a lingering unease continues to eat away at those who desired her, those who searched for her, those who killed her, those who tried to forget her, those who mourned her, those who found her, and those who turned their backs on her, alike"--
General Note:
"Originally published in Norwegian as Det dyrebare by Forlaget Oktober, Oslo, in 2011"--T.p. verso.
Geographic Term:
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Material Type
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Item Holds
FICTION Adult Fiction Open Shelf
FICTION Adult Fiction Popular Materials-Mystery

On Order



One of the New York Times Book Review' s 100 Notable Books of 2014!

Ullmann's characters are complex and paradoxical: neither fully guilty nor fully innocent

Siri Brodal, a chef and restaurant owner, is married to Jon Dreyer, a famous novelist plagued by writer's block. Siri and Jon have two daughters, and together they spend their summers on the coast of Norway, in a mansion belonging to Jenny Brodal, Siri's stylish and unforgiving mother.

Siri and Jon's marriage is loving but difficult, and troubled by painful secrets. They have a strained relationship with their elder daughter, Alma, who struggles to find her place in the family constellation. When Milla is hired as a nanny to allow Siri to work her long hours at the restaurant and Jon to supposedly meet the deadline on his book, life in the idyllic summer community takes a dire turn. One rainy July night, Milla disappears without a trace. After her remains are discovered and a suspect is identified, everyone who had any connection with her feels implicated in her tragedy and haunted by what they could have done to prevent it.

The Cold Song is a story about telling stories and about how life is continually invented and reinvented.

Author Notes

Linn Ullmann is an award winning author, journalist, and literary critic. She has published four other novels in 33 languages, all of them critically acclaimed international bestsellers: Before You Sleep , Stella Descending , Grace , and A Blessed Child .nbsp; Ullmann is a cofounder and former artistic director of the international artist residency foundation of The Bergman Estate on Fårö. She lives in Oslo with her husband and children.

Barbara J. Haveland translates fiction, poetry, and drama by leading Danish and Norwegian writers such as Peter Høeg, Ib Michael, and Jan Kjærstad. Recent projects include new translations of Ibsen's The Master Builder , Little Eyolf , and A Doll's House . She lives in Denmark.

Reviews 2

Booklist Review

Siri and Jon have always enjoyed their summers on the coast of Norway. Although staying with Siri's domineering mother can be difficult, the couple has friends there, and the home holds special meaning from Siri's childhood. That all changes the summer they hire Milla as nanny to their youngest daughter. Milla's presence adds to the already growing distance between Siri and Jon and unlocks a restlessness in Siri. Then, on the night of a party no one wanted Siri to throw, Milla disappears. Throughout the ensuing search and subsequent murder investigation, the story flits through time, space, and narrators, clearly envisaging the turmoil of all those involved. In her fifth novel, Ullman demonstrates her expertise in inhabiting the minds of complex characters, including Milla's grieving parents; a neighbor who may have been the last to see Milla alive; Siri's aging mother; Siri's elder daughter, who has a violent temper; and, of course, the beleaguered couple, Siri and Jon. Readers who appreciate an unconventional narrative flow will find this a deeply moving story of troubled relationships and unsettled memories.--Ophoff, Cortney Copyright 2014 Booklist

Publisher's Weekly Review

The discovery of a corpse, presumed to be a murder victim, comes very early in this involving fifth novel from Ullmann (Before You Sleep). But it serves mostly as a basis for the author's subtle and menacing look at family dynamics. The story proceeds through flashbacks to those who were connected with the victim, a 19-year-old nanny named Milla. The prose is almost clinically cool, and the reader observes as three young boys digging for buried treasure find the body, then as an extended cast of characters react to the news of Milla's death. Milla worked as a nanny for young Alma and Liv, daughters of restaurateur Siri Brodal and her novelist husband Jon Dreyer, who are both struggling in their careers and their marriage. The family is spending the summer with Siri's mother, Jenny, an imperious woman closing in on 75, in her huge, elegant house by the sea in rural Norway. As a role model for Alma and a constant irritant to Siri, Milla upsets further the already-delicate family dynamics. Ullmann teeters between dark comedy of manners and genuine psychological thriller, but she consistently captures the telling moments in everyday encounters, and writes seductively complex characters. (Apr.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.



But something was wrong. Siri held her breath. It had to do with Milla. Or something else. But Milla definitely had something to do with it. Her presence here at Mailund. The slightly lumpish body, the long dark hair (long dark hairs on the kitchen counter, in the bathroom sink, between the sofa and the sofa cushions, on the base-boards and doorframes), her face, sometimes pretty, sometimes not, beseeching eyes. More and more Siri found herself having to concentrate in order to keep herself in check--was that the expression? Keep oneself in check? Be one. One body, one voice, one mouth, one thread, and not fall apart, dissolve, collapse in a heap. "Your main responsibility," Siri said, "will be to look after Liv for five hours or so every day. But we'd be grateful if you'd keep an eye on Alma as well. Alma's twelve. She's"--Siri searched for the right word --"a bit of a loner." Milla laughed hesitantly, brushed the hair back from her pretty moon face and said that she thought it all sounded really great. It was a mild, bright day in May and Siri had invited Milla to the house in Oslo. The idea was for them to get to know each other a little better before the summer. Alma was at school, Liv was at nursery school, and Jon had gone for a long walk with Leopold. Something about a chapter he was having trouble writing. Milla had replied to the ad on the Internet for a summer job and Siri had been taken with her application. In her e-mail she came across as a happy, friendly, reliable girl. It would be fantastic to get to know all of you and be able to be part of your family this summer. If I get the job I'll do my best to be a good "big sister" to your daughters so that you and your husband won't have to worry when you're at work. Excerpted from The Cold Song by Linn Ullmann All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.