A young girl comes to terms with her mother’s disappearance in Jakobsen’s undernourished debut novel.
Picture a small, nameless island in a northern clime, by deep, cold waters surrounded. Seventeen pines and an apple tree grow, on a high plateau the wind gusts, in one inlet fishing is good. There are but two houses, one attached to a lighthouse, and a church. Minou, 12 when we meet her, lives with her Mama and Papa next to the lighthouse. Boxman, a retired magician, and his dog, No Name, occupy the other, and Priest, naturally, is at home in the church. Minou is a descendant, on her Papa’s side, of Descartes. She and Papa have a philosophical cast of mind; Mama, who arrived on the island with a pet peacock in a golden bowl, is impulsive and imaginative. When he is not fishing, cooking or trying to forget terrible hardships suffered in an unnamed war, Papa is searching, like his father before him, for the “absolute truth.” Minou finds a dead boy on the beach. Out of respect for the dead, Papa opts to keep the boy in the house until the boat comes. Minou’s Papa stays up talking to the dead boy and instructs his daughter to sit with the corpse during the day. No danger of putrefaction, because Papa leaves a window open in the room, and it is winter in this nameless place. This actual death and associated discoveries prompt Minou to tell us about her life on the island and her mother’s vanishing. The adults think Mama is dead. Minou can prove she is not. But almost nothing can happen when characters are mere amalgams of quirks. In more capable hands this material would have been dispatched in 20 pages.
A saccharine fable.