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The Bell in the Lake

(Hekne #1)

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4.14  ·  Rating details ·  2,185 ratings  ·  288 reviews
The engrossing epic novel—a #1 bestseller in Norway-of a young woman whose fate plays out against her village’s mystical church bells
 
As long as people could remember, the stave church’s bells had rung over the isolated village of Butangen, Norway. Cast in memory of conjoined twins, the bells are said to ring on their own in times of danger. In 1879, young pastor Kai Sch
...more
Hardcover, 400 pages
Published June 16th 2020 by The Overlook Press (first published 2018)
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Paromjit
Apparently this is the first of a translated trilogy by Norwegian author, Lars Mytting, yet this marvellous historical novel already feels epic in scope, richly descriptive and so detailed when it comes to the Stave churches and their history. A young headstrong woman, Astrid Hekne, feels a deep inner urge to see and experience life and knowledge beyond her tiny remote village of Butangen as she turns down local suitors for her hand. In a Norwegian landscape of treacherous mountains, endless fjo ...more
Amalia Gkavea
''The Hekne twins were young women when one fell ill. The thought of what this might mean - that the survivor would have to drag her sister's corpse around with her- was unbearable. So their father, Erik Hekne, went to the church and prayed for them to be allowed to die together.''

''Winter'', he thought, ''that wretched winter.
And death.''


In this small Norwegian community, the past is everywhere. In the myths narrated by the elderly, in the names that echo the deities of old, in the beautifu
...more
Dem
Jun 09, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A deeply atmospheric historical fiction novel, rich in Norwegian stave church history and forklore. The Bell in the Lake is based on local myths and real people and the story is well researched.
image:
Norway, 1880. Winter is hard in Butangen, a village secluded at the end of a valley. The lake has frozen, and for months the ground is too hard to bury the dead. Astrid Hekne dreams of a life beyond all this, beyond marriage, children, and working the land to the end of her days. Then Pastor Kai
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Fran
Jun 12, 2020 rated it it was amazing
The Hekne farmstead was one of the earliest settlements in Butangen. "Each farm was a self-sufficient kingdom...grand folk and humble folk never mixed, generation after generation kept to the same farms..." "When Christianity came to Norway, the Butangen folk built an elaborate Stave Church, a masterpiece in ore-pine with ornate carvings, dragon heads and a proud spire...the carpenters worked very hard to please all the gods just in case Odin and Tor were still active". The church was completed ...more
Caro the Helmet Lady
I don't exactly know why I had to force myself through the beginning of this book. Maybe some 50-70 pages or so it was a "sit your ass down and read the damn book!" situation. Maybe it was the translation to blame that the reading didn't go as swiftly as it did with another Norwegian author Roy Jacobsen.
Mytting's style is in fact a bit different, less minimalist, more descriptive. But still nothing to be too picky about. Maybe the story was too predictable for my tastes?

But I enjoyed it noneth
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Louise Wilson
Mar 30, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Set in Norway in 1880. The local stage church is about to be sold to raise money for the new church. German architect, Gerhard is sent to the town to supervise the old church's deconstruction. A young peasant girl, Astrid catches his eye. But Astrid has more than one admirer. The pastor has his eye on her too.

The book is rich in history and atmosphere. I loved the descriptions of 19th century Norway. Thenoace is slow but that didn't seem to matter as it still kept my attention. It's full of trad
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Emma
Nov 23, 2020 rated it really liked it
A fascinating story of Norwegian stave churches , the harsh life of rural villagers, a Pastor new to the village, a German architect, a young woman and the legend of the two bells. This was rich in detail and had many touching moments. I was completely engrossed in the setting and story. Many thanks to Netgalley for an arc of this book.
Louise Wilson
Mar 30, 2020 rated it really liked it
Set in Norway in 1880. The local stave church is about to be sold to raise money for the nee church. German architect, Gerhard is sent to the town to supervise the old church's deconstruction. A young peasant girl, Astrid catches his eye. But Astrid has more than one admirer. Thenoastor has his eye on her too.

This book is rich in history and atmosphere. I loved the descriptions of 19th century Norway. The pace is slow ut that didn't seem to matter to me as it still kept my attention. It's full o
...more
Paul Lockman
Jul 23, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2020-favourites
4.5 stars. Thoroughly enjoyable novel set in Norway in the 1880s. You learn heaps about the traditions, folklore and culture in Norway at that time and there is a very interesting love triangle between the newly arrived pastor Kai, a local woman Astrid and a German architect Gerhard who comes to the village to draw and document the old church that is being removed and relocated to Dresden, Germany. A real slow burn that is interesting and evocative and draws you in immediately. Strongly recommen ...more
Rebecca
A legend from Mytting’s hometown tells of two centuries-old church bells that, like conjoined twins, were never meant to be separated. Inspired by that story and by the real-life move of a stave church from Norway to what is now Poland, he embarked on a trilogy in which history and myth mingle to determine the future of an isolated village. The novel is constructed around compelling dichotomies. Astrid Hekne, a feminist ahead of her time, is in contrast with the pastor’s conventional views on ge ...more
SueLucie
Feb 16, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: netgalley
Something was niggling at her, the echo of what he had said about “church bells still ringing”, that runaway sentence that had realised it was in the wrong place, tripped and hidden itself, unsure whether it had escaped notice.

Just my kind of book, set in the far north - in this case rural Norway at the end of the 19th century - steeped in historical detail, tinged with local legend, and the village’s accommodation of both the old and the new beliefs rang true. I hadn’t heard of stave churches b
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Bookish Ally
Jun 10, 2020 rated it it was amazing
This book is a solid 4.25 stars - but it’s not a piece of historic fiction that everyone would enjoy. It reached #1 in Norway, but it’s a different culture there, one that I know a little bit about. Not only did I spend some childhood years in Decorah, IA (google Norwegian and Decorah together, or even Vesterheim if you are an American interested in Norwegian heritage) but I’m about 25% Norwegian myself. Knowing what I know, I am surprised that I was drawn to this piece of fiction. Set in the 19 ...more
Calzean
Sep 19, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I was worried this fine historical novel would descend into a predictable soap opera. Nope it stayed on course with its description of a remote Norwegian village, its people and its 700 year old stave church.
Old beliefs clash with the newly appointed pastor and his new fangled ideas. The locals are not happy when he announces the church is to be demolished, moved to Dresden, and a new one built. A German architect arrives to supervise the work and the two men both look long fully on the independ
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Cathy
1880 is a time of change in the world. However, very little has changed in Butangen, or ever seems likely to. “The village was twenty years behind its neighbouring villages, which were thirty years behind Norway’s towns and cities, which were fifty years behind the rest of Europe.” That tension between old and new, change and tradition forms the heart of the novel.

For Astrid Hekne, with her ‘restless mind’, real life, as she sees it, is happening elsewhere. She finds it hard to accept the life p
...more
Tripfiction
Mar 24, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Novel set in NORWAY at the end of the 19th Century (...already one of my top reads 2020!..)



The author’s previous book – The Sixteen Trees of the Somme – was one of my absolutely favourite books of 2017, and a TripFiction Book Club read in September 2018. I therefore started reading The Bell In The Lake with much excitement and anticipation. I was not in any way disappointed – it is an extremely well written (and well translated) story of village life in Norway at the end of the 19th Century. Alr
...more
Charlie
Apr 14, 2020 rated it it was amazing
At times I'm either a slow reader OR at times I just don't get the opening sequence of a novel.
This was one of those times. However, slowly, it began to read like an interesting well-written story.
Set in the late 1800s in that tucked away in backward and old dialect language land of Norway the story begins. Actually it started long before that with a seven-hundred-year old stave church and it's mystical twin bells. The story is told through a young girl named Astrid Hekne, the new Pastor and th
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Yvonne (Fiction Books)
“Ye shall shuttle wide, and I shall shuttle close, and when the weave be woven we two shall return”

I can’t recall a year when so many books have made it to my ‘favourites’ shelf, with the full 5 star recommendation.

I just couldn’t leave my experience with The Bell In The Lake, feeling anything other than awe and wonder. This was very much a story of personal journeys and unique reader experiences and one which had a tangible link with reality, in that Butangen is a place which exists and can be
...more
Joseph
Oct 25, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Lars Mytting’s The Bell in the Lake, is the first instalment in a projected trilogy, now available in an English translation by Deborah Dawkin. The novel opens in 1880 in the Norwegian village of Butangen, where young and ambitious Kai Schweigaard has just been appointed pastor. Butangen is described as being “twenty years behind its neighbouring villages, which were thirty years behind Norway’s towns and cities, which were fifty years behind the rest of Europe”. Butangen’s richest possession is ...more
Jacqueline
Jun 21, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Lars Mytting is a captivating storyteller. He creates fascinating characters. He portraits people and depicts places with an extreme precision, in every detail, so the story comes alive. His writing is so rich.
Søsterklokkene is an historical novel. About the hard live of peasants, about religion and superstition and about the destruction of stave churches. It brings us to Butangen, a small Norwegian village, at the end of the 19th century where the priest initiates the demoniac plan of selling t
...more
Mandy
Oct 15, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Well-paced, well-written and well-crafted, this lyrical and atmospheric tale of life in a small farming community in rural Norway in the 1880s is a real delight. The new pastor, Kai Schweigaard, wants a new church for his community and to raise the necessary money he decides to sell the old stave church to Germany for re-erection in Dresden. Architect Gerhard Schonauer is despatched to make drawings and take measurements of the old church before its dismantling. But destroying a church that has ...more
Aleksandras Rimdžius
Yeah, but why? What is your point? Answer me, you, modern literature.
Candace
Jul 30, 2020 rated it it was amazing
If you are unfamiliar with stave churches of Norway, go Google right away. These strange, disconcerting structures are the soul of this novel, which is equally unusual.

The village of Butangen, tucked at the end of the valley, is home to a stave church with bells cast in the memory of conjoined twins, bells said to ring on their own in the face of danger.

It's 1880, and many of these churches are being burned or dismantled. A parishioner at church at Butangen has frozen to death during Sunday ser
...more
Kathleen
May 05, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Boy oh boy - this was a good one! It all centers around a small town and a stave church, and if you don't know what a stave church is - look it up quick! - I guarantee your interest will be piqued as mine was. I think it's also important in order to understand the magnitude of the tale and also the relationship the physical church has to the people of the village. On top of the magnificent structure of the church itself, there is also a wonderful tale of the bells that adorn it. The story of whi ...more
rina dunn
Jun 07, 2020 rated it really liked it
A beautiful historical fiction based in rural Norway in the 19th century this novel is steeped in Norwegian folklore and myth.
Following the story of a gorgeous stave church that holds two bells known as the sister bells the reader is swept into magical tales and the heart of the Norwegian people.
This book actually fascinated me. I knew little about Norway and it was such an interesting book learning the history of how Christianity came to Norway and its churches.

The character development in thi
...more
Thebooktrail
A great and epic read

Well worth reading. Ambitious in scope and I would call it a reading experience.

Visit the locations in the novel BookTrail the Bell in the Lake
...more
Barry Horne
Dec 18, 2020 rated it really liked it
Enjoyed what I understand to be the first of this trilogy.

At times its focus on church building reminded me of The Spire (William Golding, 1964). At other times, its representation of rural life in Norway reminded me of Norwegian Knut Hamsun's writing (e.g. The Gowth of the Soil, 1917). Its representation of farming life also had resonance with the four-part series of books by Swedish Vilhelm Moberg, the Emigrants (1942 - 1959).
...more
switterbug (Betsey)
Jan 01, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
What a mystical and compelling book for the end of 2020, my last novel of the year. The Bell in the Lake is searing, haunting, yet seductive and exuberant. The end was so moving that I vibrated from the shimmering beauty that was harnessed and expressed so incandescently. Mytting’s poetic prose captured my spirit, and my heart broke in scattered bitty pieces before it bled back together. The author did a phenomenal job of portraying a rural Norwegian village, circa 1880, that embraces the commin ...more
Kelly
Oct 06, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This Norwegian translation is a heartrending tale of love and grief set in the atmospheric yet secluded mountains, where a remote Norwegian town sleeps and gets on with its business, impervious to most of the goings on of the rest of the world, and still steeped in old Norse mythology, superstition, and handed-down legend. Life is hard in the village, due to the tremendous cold and difficulty in farming the high-up land, but for most of the villagers this daily struggle is so routine that they a ...more
Rowena Andrews
Oct 09, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: historical
The Bell in the Lake was one that I requested on a whim after getting an email about it, because there was something about the cover that just called to me, and I am glad that I did because it was a beautifully atmospheric read that ensnared me from the very beginning.

This book was that wonderful blend of historical detail, traditions and folklore contrasted against the swell of rising modernity, and beneath all that was the very human stories of the local populace in a period of change. It wa
...more
Atharv G.
Nov 11, 2020 marked it as dnf
DNF

Unfortunately, I don't think I will be finishing this one. I was initially interested in reading this book because I was intrigued to read more about the conflict between the old and new ways of practicing religion in a Norwegian setting. This kind of conflict between more local faith traditions and the imposition of more orthodox practices is something that is continuously relevant, especially in the modern era where technology and power structures have helped flatten diverse traditions in
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Lars Mytting er en norsk journalist og forfatter. Mytting har arbeidet som forlagsredaktør og journalist i Dagningen, Aftenposten, Arbeiderbladet og Beat.
Arbeidet senere som forlagsredaktør, før han fikk utgitt romanen Hestekrefter i 2006.

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