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In the Wake

3.68  ·  Rating Details ·  839 Ratings  ·  118 Reviews
When Arvid Jansen comes-to one morning in the doorway of a bookstore in Oslo, Norway, his grief comes back to him in devastating flashes: His parents and his brothers are dead, he has lost touch with his wife and daughters, abandoned his career as a writer and bookseller. His old life is gone.

In the Wake is the story of Arvid's first steps toward resuming that life, of his
Paperback, 230 pages
Published April 17th 2007 by Picador (first published 2000)
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M. Sarki
May 10, 2014 M. Sarki rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

I find nothing pretentious or false in a Per Petterson novel. At least in the first two I have read thus far. To handle grief in the most tragic sense of it and bring it off in a believable tale of circuitous events all a part of the greater whole is truly remarkable. There is no development in this novel that is not understood and certainly applicable to a person with the character of Arvid Jansen. From the awful lonely and severe grimacing of the opening
Jun 19, 2008 Jim rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: People who are interested in knowing more about loss and guilt
When I first decided to buy this novel it was because I believed it dealt with loss. It does but if loss is the disease then what are its symptoms? One is guilt, in the case of the narrator of this novel, survivor guilt. Arvid and his brother are the only surviving members of their family. Six years on both of their lives are falling to pieces. In fact, they've both about hit rock bottom and then his brother attempts suicide. How would this affect a man who acts as if he's lost everything alread ...more
William Cuthbertson
Aug 19, 2007 William Cuthbertson rated it really liked it
In the Wake reads like a dream diary in which emotions, ideas, and relationships emerge and submerge, never fully formed, but living, in their way, distinct and ever-present, haunting those who keep them close. This is a novel in which Arvid Jansen comes to narrative consciousness with his face pressed against the window of a book store, as if waking from a coma. It is, in fact, his brother who we find in a coma, while learning the rest of Jansen's family, appearing through flashbacks or via the ...more
Dec 15, 2008 Teresa rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
My first thought upon closing this book is that it was both sad and sweet, though I suppose the 'sweetness' is really humor, certainly nothing saccharine. And the sadness isn't really in the words either, but in what the reader takes from the words. Understated, subtle book.

Don't read this book if you need a plot or even something to happen (not something I need at all) and I ended up liking the book despite some passages that seemed pointless -- I realized these passages are important to the th
Apr 28, 2009 Jeb rated it it was amazing
Excellent. Moody. Powerfully subtle. Per Peterson is my new favorite.

I started In the Wake about six months ago and made it only 30 pages before giving up. I’m very impatient with books that don’t have a clear narrative, and this one doesn’t—at least in the beginning. It alternates between present-tense action and dreams and memory, and at first it’s hard to distinguish between the different threads. At Mariah’s insistence, I gave it another shot, and I came to appreciate the structure (or lack
Jeanette  "Astute Crabbist"
Nov 25, 2008 Jeanette "Astute Crabbist" rated it really liked it
Recommended to Jeanette by: Charisse
It's hard to say much about this book without giving away what there is to discover by reading it. It's like a description by Arvid, the main character, in his own words, of the circuitous path he is taking in trying to reconcile his grief and survivor's guilt about the accidental deaths of his parents and two brothers. He is by turns aimless, anxious, restless, and disoriented, looking for something---absolution, maybe? Hope? He combines old memories with descriptions of what's happening in the ...more
Jul 14, 2013 Patrick rated it really liked it
I generally shy away from books about grief and grieving, but like Petterson's writing enough to give this one a shot. It is not a light read, but neither is it depressing. The writing and the observation of humanity are once again amazing. There are some wonderful meditations on the power of narrative to connect, and to teach. He also revisits one of his common themes: that we do not understand our parents (especially our fathers) until years after they are gone, and are then left to wonder if ...more
Oct 30, 2008 Doug rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a dark and disturbing book - an amazing glimpse into pure grief and despair, all the more difficult knowing that Petterson lived this grief. That said, as I came towards the end of the book, I found myself slowing down so it wouldn't end. Once again, I find Petterson's writing some of the best that I've come across in quite some time.
Dec 28, 2008 Bettie☯ rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Exquisitely written, bleak in texture, and hauntingly realistic
Sep 20, 2016 James rated it really liked it
In the Wake is the third of Per Petterson's novels that I have read, yet it is the first of his novels translated into English. I previously read Out Stealing Horses and I Curse the River of Time. Each of these books has increased my esteem for this award-winning Norwegian author.

In the Wake tells the story of Arvid, a writer in his early forties. It is a Proustian tale in the sense that the bulk of the story is built on Arvid's memories of events that have shaped his life. The actual timespan o
Oct 30, 2009 Tony rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: scandinavian
Arvid, the protagonist in In the Wake, scuttles somnambulistically through life years after the deaths of his parents and two youngest brothers in a ferry fire (based on a real event). Flashbacks inform us that he didn't have much gumption before the accident either. So the author has us follow him. When he goes for a walk we learn what he is wearing, how cold it is, whether he is happy or sad about the weather, which tune is going through his head. When he drives, we are assured of the route, t ...more
Feb 10, 2011 Asma rated it it was amazing
Really enjoyed this story about a forty-ish Norwegian man, Arvid Jansen, who bounces back from being emotionally distraught after a boat tragedy takes the lives of his father, his mother, and two of his three brothers on April 7, 1990. Throughout the story, he slowly comes back to life over six years of bereavement, reminiscing and dreaming about his father's life and their relationship, recounting his surviving brothers' reactions, and making new social connections in his block of housing near ...more
Dec 04, 2008 Camilla rated it it was ok
Recommended to Camilla by: miller
I don't know, this book left me cold. I loved Out Stealing Horses, so imagined I would like this one as well...Maybe I would like it if I read it another time, but this month I just don't seem to have wanted to follow Arvid's careening emotions and memories and car drives. Cold, right? The only parts I really felt something for were his tender feelings towards Mrs. Grunde (though his feelings towards her son were another matter), but then, I suppose it was the only time Arvid really felt anythin ...more
Dec 09, 2007 Nigel rated it it was ok
A short but intense read that is downbeat and emotionally draining. Told mostly in flashback it's the story of a broken man who has lost his parents and two brothers in an accident, become estranged from his wife and children and struggles to work out his relationship with his late father.
It's vividly told in the first person by a man fast losing his marbles but is not totally without humour. There are some longeurs however and the writing is at times a little too self conciously knowing.
May 03, 2014 Peter rated it really liked it
Shelves: scandinavian
A quietly powerful story of a man slowly coming to grips with tragedy, the dissolution of his marriage and the disappointments of his past. This book hasn't gotten the acclaim enjoyed by the author's Out Stealing Horses, but I expect that the sad but somehow hopeful story of Arvid Jansen's life will stay with me much longer than that acclaimed novel has.
Lisa P
Apr 02, 2008 Lisa P rated it it was ok
I had trouble holding on to the minimalist style and dreariness. Even though it was brief, it was somehow a little rambling and overly-introspective.
Oct 02, 2008 Bill rated it it was ok
I read this book mainly based on my very high opinions of his more recent offering, "Out Stealing Horses." It's a decent meditation on loss, but still felt mediocre.
Anna Allen
Feb 02, 2017 Anna Allen rated it really liked it
I went to Powell's and bought a copy of every book by Per Petterson that they had. I've never done that for an author before. I just love the thoughtful quality his writing has, as if he's still sorting it all out, and his imagery is so captivating. This is the third of his that I've read.

A novel about the true loss of his own family. It hardly feels like a novel. I could only read one chapter at a time because each one is a pillar of grief, a jumble of memory and recollective pain and loss. Ab
Mary Dayhoff
Feb 20, 2017 Mary Dayhoff rated it really liked it
Sep 13, 2009 Diane rated it it was amazing
Norwegian novelist Per Peterson uses Oslo and the Norwegian wilderness as the setting to tell the story of Arvid Jansen. Jansen's interior monologue opens the reader to his world, in which he seems to be stranger. Throughout the narrative, Jansen comes to terms with the losses that have left him with no family and, in effect, no identity. As he deals with the revelations that open his past to him, the memory of the final mystery that has defined his life frees him to start anew, not necessarily ...more
Jun 18, 2009 yb rated it liked it
It cannot be a good sign that I brought this book on vacation, apparently forgetting that I read it six months ago. After reading "Out Stealing Horses", I was so enamored of Petterson that I immediately purchased this novel, which contained relatively few of the charms of "Horses" that I had to read a few pages to remember that I took this on my previous trip.

"In the Wake" follows Arvid in the aftermath of a number of person tragedies. He is struggling with the day to day tasks of surviving the
I read this a few weeks ago & still don't really know what I think about this book. The author liked randomness & the abstract - that I know. Essentially, that's what this whole book is - randomness & abstract. Having read it, it feels like the kind of book I shouldn't have liked, but I think I actually did like it.

In the Wake is about a guy who has hit rock bottom years after his parents & 2 of his brothers are killed in a fire on a ferry. The book begins with Arvid Jansen comin
James Goertel
Jan 08, 2012 James Goertel rated it really liked it
The first Petterson I read was 'Out Stealing Horses' and its quiet, cold, simple story dropped me into a landscape that was both literal and emotional - the type of stark reality that heightens our senses, but also makes us wary - of the dark, of the trian-like wind, of stepping onto the ice of a lake and breaking through. I have since read 'I Curse the River of Time' and now 'In the Wake' and what I see with both are Petterson's gifts to tell a familiar, familial story - one that mines emotions ...more
Jan 10, 2008 Rick rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction
We were up in Westchester, browsing in a Border’s in Mount Kisco, and I got the urge to get Petterson’s Out Stealing Horses, which had been the subject of an enthusiastic front page review by Thomas McGuane. (It would be more accurate that I got the urge to buy a book and tried to limit it by focusing on one book on my wish list.) They did not have it but they had this earlier novel of Petterson’s and I bought it. In the Wake is good, very good. A terse, troubled story of a man estranged from hi ...more
Oct 01, 2014 Mafaldine rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Ik nam deze pocket mee voor 2,5 euro op het boekenfestijn, en dat was 2,5 euro goed besteed.
Wat kan ik vertellen dat al niet op de achterflap staat, zonder spoilers weg te geven? Hoofdpersonage en verteller Arvid verloor zes jaar geleden zijn ouders en jongere broers in een ramp met een veerboot. Zowel met hem als met zijn oudere broer is het sindsdien alleen maar bergafwaarts gegaan. Echtscheiding, werkloosheid, zinloosheid vooral. Via flashbacks en dromen beleven we hoe Arvid worstelt met de
May 24, 2009 Nicola rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Mar 06, 2009 Chrissie marked it as to-read
I am adding this book because I just finished and absolutely adored To Siberia by Petterson. I will now read anything by this author. I thought that To Siberia was even better than Out Stealing Horses. This is one of those authors that simply writes so well, that the subject matter is irrelevant. This book, In the Wake, is about the author's loss of family when the MS Estonia sank in 1994. This was a huge catastrophy in Scandinavia, when it happened. I was livining in Stockholm at the time...... ...more
Mar 16, 2009 Steve rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-in-2009
This is a well-written novel centered around the topics of loss, grief and reconciliation with the way life is at that moment. Avrid has lost his family by tragedy or estrangement, and we feel his grief and confusion acutely. Petterson introduces plenty of humor, though, and shows great insight into human behavior. One of the best qualities of a good book (or film) is how it works on more than one level, and this book does that. I have the feeling I will re-read this book in a few years and disc ...more
Feb 10, 2010 Aly rated it it was amazing
I found this book not quite as compelling as Out Stealing Horses, but I still found it wonderfully crafted and moving. It's a brutal and yet lyrical account of grieving, on par with-- though very different from-- The Year of Magical Thinking. Petterson, I find, conveys isolation like no other author, and uses, again, setting to wonderful effect. Descriptions of the wilderness of Norway make me feel like I've been there myself, and the character's relationships loom large. After reading this book ...more
Jeanine Lent
I enjoyed this book. In spite of its sad situations, I found this book less depressing than Per Petterson's books, "It's Fine by Me" and "To Siberia." The main character, is the friend of the main character of the book, "It's Fine by Me." I found myself wondering if Arvid is the son of the woman in the book, "To Siberia."
The author seems to like writing books about solitary characters, bringing us into the mind of that person. I find I enjoy this quite a bit. I can't wait to read the next book,
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Petterson knew from the age of 18 that he wanted to be a writer, but didn't embark on this career for many years - his debut book, the short story collection Aske i munnen, sand i skoa, (Ashes in the Mouth, Sand in the Shoes) was published 17 years later, when Petterson was 35. Previously he had worked for years in a factory as an unskilled labourer, as his parents had done before him, and had als ...more
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“I remember a lot of dreams. Sometimes they are hard to distinguish from what has really happened. That is not so terrible. It is the same with books.” 12 likes
“...I see the shape of the wind on the water...” 5 likes
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