Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Book Review: 'Stones Don't Speak' by Gry Finsnes

Norwegian born Gry Finsnes has lived in several countries – Sweden, India, England, Germany, France (her current home), gathering data and experiences she now expresses in her novels. Her initial books were published in Swedish, but she now publishes in English. Her novel ‘GOODBYE BOMBAY is based on life in India as it was for an expatriate in the 1980s, but the story itself is pure fiction.’ Her debut novel (published in English) was VANISHED IN BERLIN and was Book 1 in her WWII series. Now she offers STONES DON’T SPEAK as Book 2 in that series (the series is now called Tall King’s County Series).

Gry’s approach to telling a story is what sets her novels apart from many other of this historical romance genre - the manner in which she uses it to unveil her historic romance is electrifying. Example, Gry opens her novel with a telling dramatic point in Oslo, October 1941: ‘Her fingers were dry, white, lying still. They were still connected to her lifeless hands, motionless in her lap. She saw them without seeing, through a haze, feeling suspended in an unreal reality. Then the applause hit her like a wave, rising from the hesitant beginning of a few hands put together. She was still sitting down with her head hanging over the keys of the grand piano, feeling empty, not quite understanding this new sound. The last heavy crescendo and final cadenza had been a physical effort that had drained the rest of her strength. The sound of it was still booming in her head. She took a deep breath and gathered her long dress in her hands, and tried to rise gracefully. It was done. She had after all managed to get through the whole program without stumbling. Mechanically she turned to face the audience. Another sound: the scraping of chairs on the hard wood surface. They were standing up, clapping their hands rhythmically. The film covering her eyes was lifting and she saw them more clearly now: a mass of faces, of coats and hats. Stiffly she bent her body forward to receive the homage and smiled like she should, trying to find her mother’s face in the crowd. There she was, first row a little to the left, in her good black dress with slightly puffed sleeves. She was laughing and miming to her. She knew what her mother was saying. “Curtsey,” she wanted her to curtsey. “No, not today,” she said to herself. “Sorry Mum, this is my life.”

After the applause Ellen reflects, ‘They all knew that she had gone back to Vienna in 1940, after the German invasion of Norway. She had returned to finish her studies but also to find Friedrich, her German fiancĂ© and fellow musician. He had disappeared in the fall of 1940 when they were hiding him in Flekkefjord, a small town on the Southern coast, since he would have to fight on the German side if discovered. But one day he was suddenly gone without a trace. Ellen had travelled to Vienna and then to Berlin in the middle of war to look for him, but without success.’

And with that taste of the essence of Ellen Langmo we enter the story – ‘The population tries to cope with the German occupation. After her successful debut concert as a pianist, Ellen Langmo, resists the Nazis who want to use her talent in their endeavor to convince people that Hitler’s ideas are right. At the same time the resistance movements begin to take form and her friends want to involve her. Trying to escape the conflicting and dangerous demands, she flees from Oslo to Stavanger on the West Coast where life is calmer. She is still looking for Friedrich but tries to accept his death when she has a strange encounter.’

Adventure, romance, music, intrigue, all blended with history and the manner in which Gry writes captures our attention and our hearts. Grady Harp, April 17

Editor's note: This review has been published with the permission of Grady Harp. Like what you read? Subscribe to the SFRB's free daily email notice so you can be up-to-date on our latest articles. Scroll up this page to the sign-up field on your right.