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The Ice Palace

3.93  ·  Rating details ·  5,848 ratings  ·  763 reviews
Commonly seen as the legendary Norwegian writer's masterpiece, this story tells the tale of Siss and Unn, two friends who have only spent one evening in each other's company. But so profound is this evening between them that when Unn inexplicably disappears, Siss's world is shattered. The Ice Palace is written in prose of a lyrical economy that ranks among the most memorab ...more
Paperback, 176 pages
Published May 1st 2002 by Peter Owen Publishers (first published 1963)
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Signe The bird is the immortal all seeing eye, perhaps the eye that Unn sees as life passes from her, but once drawn in by the Ice Palace
He could not leave
The bird is the immortal all seeing eye, perhaps the eye that Unn sees as life passes from her, but once drawn in by the Ice Palace
He could not leave the spot. Nor could he pounce, or settle - only slice past the ice wall like a dark puff of wind. The next minute far away on the horizon or spiralling upwards; the next moment past the ice wall again at the same point. he was no longer a completely unfettered bird with steel claws and accompanying wind. He was bound fast here, the prisoner of his own freedom, unable to give up. What he saw confused him

Both Siss and the bird seem to be equally trapped by the Ice Palace. This passage, located where it is, indicates a shift is about to occur in Siss.

We are woodwind players, enchanted by things we cannot resist.

The woodwind players help Siss to leave her promise, her gift, her grief and return to life and community. The woodwind players play by the side of the road and dispel fear and grief. (less)

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Average rating 3.93  · 
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Oct 20, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: norway, cold-and-dark
In such a short amount of time and in so few, yet potent, words, Vesaas delivers a chilling, metaphor-driven tale of loss set in the dense winters of Norway. You really should read this book. It is a very quick read, but it will remain with you long after you finish the last page.

Vesaas, who was a decorated poet as well as a novelist, delivers a fresh, poetic and concise prose that damn near flows off the page. The real majesty however, is in the way he crafts an environment that reads like a l
Mar 21, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Lovers of cold, white winters.
“Promise in deepest snow from Siss to Unn:
I promise to think about no one but you.”

Sometimes, only a gleaming glance is enough.
Siss and Unn, two eleven-year old girls living in an isolated, rural community somewhere in Scandinavia, need only a single evening together to forge an uncommon friendship that will change their lives irreparably.
When four eyes full of gleams and radiance beneath their lashes, filling the looking glass, shine into each other, words become redundant. A disturbing meet
Jan 16, 2018 rated it really liked it
We have a significant amount of snow on the ground for the first time in four years. With this influx of winter weather, it is comforting to read books about snow and colder climates. I have seen a number of goodreads friends review Tarjei Vesaas' definitive book the Ice Palace. In need of a foreign prize award winner for classics bingo, I decided to read his masterpiece for myself. Short in length, this novella is poignant in its prose as Vesaas writes of grieving and survivors guilt' in this h ...more
Apr 15, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: those who can take a little hypothermia
Recommended to Robin by: Julie
Sometimes, when you lose someone, the loss is so bewildering and heavy, you have to decide whether to break off a part of yourself in letting them go, or be pulled under with them.

It takes courage and experience to take the limb, or aortic chamber, and snap it off, knowing the shards of ice will splinter and wound. Knowing, each time you try to wiggle that finger or listen to the incomplete thud of your heartbeat, you will painfully remember what is missing.

It seems almost easier to become heav
3 "at times hypnotic, at times beautiful but mostly stilted" stars !!

I glanced and saw many five star ratings for this book. I ask myself "What have I missed? What have I misunderstood?"

I decide that this book simply did not resonate deeply for me.

I loved the descriptions of the changing of the season in a small Scandinavian town and the use of the frozen waterfall as something monstrous, profound, beautiful but inanimate. This is the way I felt about the book as well. Inanimate.....too col
Jim Fonseca
I guess I will be in the minority in giving this novel a ‘3’ when it is highly rated on GR. In addition, the novel from 1963 is considered a classic of Norwegian literature. It won the Nordic Council's Literature Prize for the best novel that year. In my edition Doris Lessing wrote a blurb praising the lyrical writing.


The blurbs tell us the simple plot, but I will still say SPOILERS FOLLOW. We know the story is centered on two 11-year-old girls before we begin reading. One girl is new to school.

The Ice palace takes place in the raw scenery of the Norwegian late autumn. The evening roaring heralds the strengthening of the ice covering the nearby lake, and in the shadow, on the roadsides unnamed creatures are skulking. But you are not afraid of darkness, Siss, are you? There’s nothing to be afraid of. It’ll envelop you with soft coat and then you can hear its indistinct voice. It loves to play sometimes with you, but you know all its clever tricks, all these whispers and rustles. There
Apr 16, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Light-Seekers after every storm
Recommended to Seemita by: Dolors
When a few dotted lines can cuff my heart into a promise and bind my palms over it in sombre armory, keep me lain in its pristine shadows for hours and yet freeze the time in crystalline imagery, I beam at the prospect: the prospect of living in that promise; that promise which lights up with the chandeliers of frosty realizations hanging from the ceiling of dreams and a sea of incomplete chances freezing my being.

A life is made of promises; some made to self, some to others. And like a diffide
May 07, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction, norway
A wonderfully cathartic read for anyone who, like me, has been forced to sit through Frozen one too many times. Like a bleak Scandi rewrite, this also features a lonely girl who makes her way to a magical palace of ice in the wilderness, except that here, instead of belting out a jaunty power-ballad, she succumbs satisfyingly to hypothermia. What's that, Elsa? Oh, the cold does bother you, after all? Well, maybe you should have thought of that before you stripped down to a minidress and started ...more
As eleven-year-old Siss heads out in to the darkness of a late autumn evening, she hears ice crack down by the river.

It's been an unusually cold autumn and an unlikely ice palace of epic proportions has formed from a frozen waterfall, and the dark and the cold have dominated the villagers' minds.

Siss's mind is particularly focused on the elements as she walks alone, near the remote woods, as ice thunders “like gunshot,” in the background, but she is steadfast in her resolve to visit her new frie
Algernon (Darth Anyan)
May 02, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites, 2014

The more I like a book, the more I hesitate about how to write it up in a review, about how to capture its beauty and how to convince other readers that it is worth checking up. I read The Ice Palace in one sitting, then I sat and thought about it for a week. At first glance, it is such a simple, straight-forward story, told in understated, minimalist prose. Two young girls meet after school and believe they could become close friends, yet they shy away from giving in to their impulses too fast,
Aug 10, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2019, nordics
Promised you a miracle
Apr 14, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: modern-lit, read-2019
A haunting, beautiful, atmospheric and poetic novella set in the harsh Norwegian winter. Siss and Unn are two very different 11 year old girls who are just embarking on a tentative friendship when tragedy strikes. The ice palace of the title is the name they give to the ice sculptures formed by a freezing waterfall. I could say more but I don't think it is necessary... ...more
Nov 12, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Many years ago (decades even) I watched this movie on television about the life of American poet Maya Angelou. The details of the story have long ebbed away but there’s this one scene that I recall vividly. In it a sort of teacher figure is telling the young Maya about how beautiful words can be, how wonderful it is to love them. I guess this conversation remained with me because at the time I didn’t understand it. I loved reading books already, I loved the stories they told and the adventures I ...more

What a bedeviled activity reading is!

When one reads the book or what has one read just before, are circumstances that alter the relationship between the printed pages and the reader.

I came to The Ice Palace after finishing The Long Ships, which had delighted, illustrated and greatly amused me. After Bengtsson’s smooth but engaging jocularity, I was not ready for the lyricism and the evocative tone of Vesaas’s book, and it took me several pages to adjust my senses. The new coldness made my eyes
Lynne King
Tarjei Vesaas has written an absolute masterpiece here.

Read it - Examine the ice palace on the cover of the book and the picture of a girl. Use your imagination and think of imagery and symbolism, snow, ice, water, new seasons, mental trauma, the mirror that reveals all, two eleven year old girls, an outsider and the other the leader of a group at school. The catalyst is the ice palace.

Meet death and then the birth of the phoenix. What is the wild bird doing and what is the significance? The wo
Nate D
Aug 27, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: those glimpsed in mirrors of glass, mirrors of ice
Recommended to Nate D by: Inviting ice-fissures
Frostily immaculate and mysterious as the titular ice formation. Tunnels of ice, spires of ice. Rooms with only entries and no exits that beckon, beckon.

There's so much that fascinates here: the ethereal descriptions of northern landscapes, and accompanying slightly alien compassion of its communities, the inexpressible pre-sexual bonds of children, the inexpressible secrets and promises of self and other, the ice palace, always the ice palace. The simple direct language all the more capable of
Paquita Maria Sanchez
Based on the ratings, when I first started reading this and feeling unimpressed (and occasionally even a little annoyed), I half-convinced myself that the author had suffered his entire 73 years with a case of Imminent Death Syndrome, along with Male Pattern Baldness and Sorta-Looks-Like-Willem-Dafoe-itis. I was wrong says now-me to past-me, because this gets better and better the more you get used to the stilted prose, accept it as a voice for (admittedly a bit too sage and emotionally nuanced) ...more
Το Άθχημο γατί του θενιόρ Γκουαναμίρου
So, I was sitting in my bed, reading my book, minding my own business, covered in blankets -no central heating in our Greek household since the 2008 financial crisis - and then I realised something stood behind me. There was a grey trunk poking my shoulder, leaving me no choice but to address the elephant in the room.

This book, written by a non-militant bigot, is a mixture of pagan and Christian morality with a non-aggressive and yet intense bias towards homosexuality, deemed as a kind of hyster
Apr 08, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Recommended to Ema by: Mariel / Nate D / Spenke
A novel with a scarcity of words but with a delicate, dreamlike poetry; a story that makes you taste the coldness and isolation of winter in the middle of the summer; an adult writer who can see through the soul of an eleven year girl, down to her utmost fears; a remembrance of childhood with all its awkward moments; two girls that are linked in life and beyond; a secret that is never spoken, buried forever in ice; a promise that is kept, no matter if it brings estrangement; a wonder of nature, ...more
Stephen P(who no longer can participate due to illness)
Nov 01, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Those who seek to dwell in the simplicity of revelation
Shelves: favorites, nordic
A profound encapsulation of time, its passing, couched as a read for preteen girls, versed in the plain-speak of short sentenced nordic prose. Hmm.

I read for a bit with a shoulder shrug but then I heard the words spoken out loud. Strange, it sounded much like my voice. Not my aloud but my inner voice. Swept suddenly along not an ice floe to grab onto I was within the story.

The story was simple and sad. The main character, the hub of her clique at school is drawn to the newly arrived girl who ke
Apr 05, 2013 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: a ring round Siss
Recommended to Mariel by: I'm not afraid of the dark
They were still dragging the river, downwards from the waterfall where there were pools. The ice-coated dragging poles stood in the snowdrifts at night, pointing upwards.
All roads led to Auntie’s house. Everything collected there, all lines of communication met in this lonely woman, Unn’s sole anchor. The blind lanes crossed there at a clear, tearless point of intersection.
‘I see,’ said Auntie.
‘Thank you,’ she said, ‘It can’t be helped.’
Unn’s anchor in life.

What is the time it takes from when yo
Vit Babenco
Mar 25, 2016 rated it it was amazing
The Ice Palace depicts a quite unusual psychological climate.
Shocked by disappearance of her friend Siss experiences a deep psychological trauma…
“The ice construction rises above them, enigmatic, powerful, its pinnacles disappearing into the darkness and the winter cloud drift. It seems prepared to stand eternally… There is something secret here. They bring out what sorrows they may have and transfer them to this midnight play of light and suspicion of death… The men are lost in the game at the
Nidhi Singh
It started with a glance. It ran high as a fever. It swept the frosty roads and froze into the green ice palace. It sought its labyrinths, breathed in its strangeness. It settled deep inside Siss. It was the greatest treasure she wrapped under her coat in that most difficult winter of all.

Promise in deepest snow from Siss to Unn:
I promise to think about no one but you.
To think about everything I know about you.

It was the promise that gave Siss the solemnity she needed for Unn. Something that wo
Lauren Lanz
3.5 stars ❄️

A classic Nordic tale originally published in 1963, The Ice Palace was gorgeously told. The lush winter scenery made for a wonderful read.
“They were floating, almost at one with the darkness, reflecting no light. Their footsteps could not be heard. But their breathing could, and perhaps the heart. They mingled with other almost inaudible nocturnal stirrings, like a small vibration in long wires.”

This tale follows a brief and unlikely friendship between two eleven year old
Jim Elkins
Oct 16, 2020 added it
Shelves: norwegian
A Kind of Complexity not Known to Postmodernism

Vesaas's "Ice Palace," published in 1963 and translated in 1993, 23 years after Vesaas's death, has been the subject of a number of ecstatic reviews. Because it seems so remote in time and place it has attracted some inaccurate stereotypes: one reviewer said Vesaas lived in a remote area of northern Norway (he was born in a small town in Telemark, and when he married he moved a few miles down the road), and another said the book takes place on a fjo
This is a weird little wonder. Starts out weird, quickly transforms to wonder. Written by Tarjei Vesaas, translated from the Norwegian by Elizabeth Rokkan.

Reads like Hemingway--a simple, clipped style. In the beginning, an 11-year-old girl named Siss, reigning queen in the schoolhouse, is beguiled by the mysterious newcomer Unn. Gets invited to her house. They go to Unn's bedroom and talk about things 11-year-old girl's talk about, but the weird part is the power of their attraction to each oth
Lee Klein
Feb 25, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Knew nothing about this other than good reviews on here and saw it referenced on a recent Archipelago publication I almost started reading but figured I should first read the author's purported masterpiece. Didn't read the spoilers on the back cover or synopsis on here. It took me three attempts to read the first page, couldn't stick with it, realized I was reading blind, and the prospect of reading even a 136-page novel seemed daunting. But my fourth attempt was a success, I read with something ...more
Afraid of the dark? No. Bright woodwind players had appeared and were walking along the sides of the road.

Read this during an ongoing depressive episode, but still found it magical, the tenderness of its narration, its maturation. Alas, its first few scenes are its best, or perhaps my mood simply took a downturn thereafter, a tension, assumed importance, an apprehensive hope.

(view spoiler)
This short book is considered a Norwegian classic
and has received a lot of praise. It is supposed to be a 'deceptively' simple tale. There's probably some hidden meaning which I couldn't really decipher.
The writing is simple and poetical. I found it a bit repetitive and the dialogue between the characters was a bit awkward and frustrating.

There's some good imagery and the details about the 'Ice palace' are chilling and evocative.

My main issue with the book is it's implausibility. The frie
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Tarjei Vesaas was a Norwegian poet and novelist. Written in Nynorsk, his work is characterized by simple, terse, and symbolic prose. His stories often cover simple rural people that undergo a severe psychological drama and who according to critics are described with immense psychological insight. Commonly dealing with themes such as death, guilt, angst, and other deep and intractable human emotion ...more

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