CHILDREN'S ISLAND by P.C. Jersild

CHILDREN'S ISLAND

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KIRKUS REVIEW

The accomplished Swedish novelist-physician Jersild's third novel to be published here (After The Flood, 1985; The Animal Doctor, 1975), and a pleasure--the probing coming-of-age story of a 10-year-old runaway boy. Reine Larsson lives with his mother Harriet in a small Stockholm apartment as the novel opens in the early 70's. He's a lively but thoughtful child, given to making up playful poems, and fantasizing that his long-disappeared father was in reality Dag Hammerskjold. Harriet decides to send him to a camp called Children's Island for the summer, but he circumvents this through an elaborate scam and slips back into his own apartment after his mother leaves on her own vacation. Living there in the dark like a squatter, he ventures out into Stockholm to have the adventures he's certain he won't have when puberty turns him into a sex-addled adolescent. Through charming innocence and endless chutzpah, he gets a job working with a group of elderly ladies making funeral wreaths (he designs a T-shirt for himself that reads ""From a Bereaved Mother""), but is locked out of his home when his mother's drunken boyfriend, Stig, discovers him there and steals the key. The novel takes a darker turn as Reine is rejected by a troupe of traveling actors he yearns to join, discovers Harriet in bed with the loathsome Stig, and blindly runs away again, only to be beaten up by a gang of hot rodders. But finally he's taken in by an eccentric, beautiful, and completely bald salesgirl named Nora, who treats him with loving kindness, and he eventually returns to Harriet able to accept her shortcomings and his oncoming maturity. Once one suspends one's disbelief over Reine's stunning precocity, this is a funny picaresque that teaches more sober lessons along the way.

Pub Date: Dec. 5th, 1986
ISBN: 0803275676
Publisher: Univ. of Nebraska Press