Terror in the Arctic – Bjarnhild Tulloch

Norwegian title: Hvis vi overlever krigen

Hello friends!

I hope you’ve had a very nice weekend! I’ve enjoy myself very much! One of my besties visited from home and she said yes to be my maid of honour at my wedding. The wedding is three years away for now but I like to be out in good time, hehe. I’ve finished another WW2 book and this time it is set in the far north of Norway, Kirkenes. The synopsis is borrowed from Goodreads:

Terror in the Arctic the story of Bjarnhild, who was 5 when the war started, as she tried to make sense of the change to her family life. As the war escalated, conflicts in her family deepened. Her oldest sister fell in love with a German officer and bore his children. The tale mixes the bleak and horrific with humour and humanity, tragedy with daring and heroism, as well as funny and sometimes hilarious episodes. Through it all, children learned the basics of survival and continued to play outside while listening for air raid warnings. They smuggled food parcels to the Russian prisoners and got little toys in return. As Kirkenes was bombed to destruction, Bjarnhild and her family fled to the countryside. On her tenth birthday, in the path of the oncoming Russian Army, they escaped across a fjord in a rowing boat with a Russian plan in pursuit. They sat out the final battle, sheltering in a dig-out in a nearby hillside, until they were liberated by the Russian Army.

First of all I must say that it took me quite some time to get used to the English title of this book. When I looked for it online I only found it under its English title and I didn’t realize that it originally was Norwegian until I read the name Kirkenes on the back. When I looked it up on Goodreads I also found it under the English title, which I found very strange. The name of the book itself was also a bit strange at first but when I’d read the entire book the English title made more sense. Now, onto the book!

Terror in the Arctic carries the characteristics many Norwegians will recognize. The burning of Northern Norway was one of the greatest tragedies our country experienced during the war. Everything from infrastructure to house animals was burned, slaughtered, or destroyed. There was barely anything left in Northern Norway when the Nazis had retreated. They forced the public with them, and many lived under horrible conditions. In school we learn quite a bit about this but I’ve never read a book about it outside of school until now. I found it especially refreshing to read this kind of book from a child’s perspective. Kids have their own way of describing things that makes the situations seem even more real! We can all relate to a childs way of thinking since we’ve all been there, and they have a brilliant ability to break things down to something they understand and adapt to different situations. Bjarnhild, our main character, has some truly amazing descriptions of her daily life. Her descriptions range from happy to devastating, and it was fascinating to read her story. Reading books like this by survivors like Bjarnhild is something I always experience as more real. I feel that it gives me a different kind of understanding for the events she and her family went through compared to a historical fiction book for example. Historical fiction can be good in order to get the overal perspective on an event but real life tales can give a more focused understanding in my opinion, especially when they come from children.

Languagewise I think this book is really good! Through the editing process the child’s language has been kept and this make the story more real to the reader, at least it did to me. Language is in my opinion especially important in a book like this one. Sometimes I experience the language to be too heavy and complicated in surviors stories and I loose interest no matter how interesting the story might be. The reason for the difficult language might have its reasons but for me as a reader it might be hard to connect with the story and gain an understanding for it. I would consider this an easy read although with a heavy theme. The book might be suitable for adolescences and grownups but not younger readers. The reason for this is that some scenes can be experienced as confusing and horrifying. It is a difficult concept to grasp, even for a history buff like me, how someone could burn everything down and force people from their home. The strategics of war doesn’t always make sense to people who has never experienced it themselves.

Terror in the Arctic is a well executed biography of Bjarnhild’s life during World War 2 in Northern Norway. It has inspired me to look for more books similar to this one! It is horrifying to say but I’m only familiar with the rough lines of the Norwegian occupation from 1940-45. If you’re interested in books about Northern Norway set during the war then this book is definitley something you should look into!

Published: 2013

Genre: Historical novel

Theme: Norway, occupation, family, war

– The Book Reader

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