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Alberta and Jacob
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1001 book reviews > Alberta and Jacob by Cora Sandel

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Diane  | 2051 comments Rating: 4 Stars

This is a semi-autobiographical story of the year in the life of a teenage girl growing up in Northern Norway in the late 19th century. She is shy, in contrast to her extroverted younger brother. She is discontent with the direction her life is going and feels trapped by her hard-to-please parents, societal expectations, and family obligations. She is not sure what she wants in life, but she is sure that her current trajectory is not it.

Overall, a beautifully written story with lovely prose (almost to the point of being too flowery).


Diane Zwang | 1314 comments Mod
Diane wrote: "Rating: 4 Stars

This is a semi-autobiographical story of the year in the life of a teenage girl growing up in Northern Norway in the late 19th century. She is shy, in contrast to her extroverted y..."


I have had this book on my TBR list for a long time. I am glad you liked it.


message 3: by Gail (new)

Gail (gailifer) | 1534 comments Alberta and Jacob is a story narrated by a young woman coming of age in the very far north region of Norway. The descriptions of the landscape covered with snow, the flowers beginning to come out in spring, the fog coming up from the fjord, all gave me an insight into both the beauty and the claustrophobic trap of the place. Our narrator, Alberta, is a girl who is not just trapped in a small town, and a harsh landscape, she is also trapped in herself. She views herself as nothing, no one, without ideas and without any charms. She is a huge disappointment to her parents who have reason to be disappointed in themselves, their life and both their children. She is even more a disappointment to herself as she struggles against the expectations of the society of the town, her peers and her parents. She is in a constant internal battle with attempting to please and yet having none of the social skills nor inclination to please. She is largely known as the awkward, shy listener and she rarely speaks in group settings.
There are only a few times she finds herself, when she is skiing, when she is running and when she listens to her inner voice who searches for words to write poetry / prose.
Nothing really happens during the book except everything happens as Alberta opens up to some core realizations about herself...what she brings to life and what she desires from life.


message 4: by Diane (last edited Sep 30, 2019 06:09PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Diane Zwang | 1314 comments Mod
3.5 stars rounded to 4

Originally written in 1926, this is the semi-autobiographical coming-of-age story of two siblings in Norway. Alberta and Jacob are close and do look out for one another, a feeling I can relate to as I have siblings that I am close with. Alberta has a wicked coffee addiction which I loved. The obsession with limiting coffee by the housekeeper and her mother was baffling, was there a ration? The seemingly dysfunctional parents were hard to read about at times but I am sure it was typical for the time period. I really felt for Alberta who really wanted much more from her life than was the norm for the time period. This was an interesting look into growing up in Norway. The Alberta trilogy traced the emotional development of a lethargic and unhappy girl into a self-sufficient woman.

“She was the bold girl who had no need to hide her face, her hands or her thoughts, who was not afraid of people and who did what she wanted.”

“Yet another way of being peculiar.”

“It seemed as if Jacob had led a lop-sided existence, never really fitting into the circumstances in which he was born – never living up to Papa's expectations.”

“Or I ought to have been a boy, then I could have gone to sea. I wouldn't have stayed a day longer in this filthy town.”


message 5: by Liz M (new) - added it

Liz M | 194 comments Why it is included in the 1001 list: "The first part of Cora Sandel's 'Alberta' trilogy, {it} was hailed as a masterpiece by the woman's emancipation movement."

Set in rural, northern Norway, this story of Alberta is a slow story of her young adulthood as her family slides into poverty. The family has not enough money for both children to remain in school, so Alberta, although more studious and with a love of learning, as the girl she is forced to stay home to help her mother with the housework and to tutor her brother who wants nothing to do with learning and desire to be a sailor.

There are gorgeous descriptions of scenery and light and oppressive details of daily life. Well-written, but a difficult read and the wrong timing for me.


Jamie Barringer (Ravenmount) (ravenmount) | 481 comments I really enjoyed this book. It's probably not my favorite Scandinavian novel, but it was well written. I was reading this one during July, while it was super hot, so it was nice to imagine being on such a cold island, even if I might not want to actually live where it is that cold for that long.
This story is about two kids growing up on an island in Northern Norway, in an isolated community that offers few escapes from their rather abusive parents. Jacob manages to escape eventually, getting a job on a ship, but Alberta is stuck on the island, with not even a high-school level education, since her parents forced her to give up on high school while they focused on getting her brother through school. Alberta is not particularly unattractive or dumb, but her parents treat her as if she is, and she is very insecure and awkward around people (maybe a character who is on the autistic spectrum?).
The story itself is a bit bleak, but the storytelling makes this book lovely, and I hope to find and read the rest of the trilogy soon.
I gave this book 5 stars on Goodreads.


message 7: by George P. (last edited Nov 15, 2022 10:42AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

George P. | 538 comments 4 stars. It's like Catcher in the Rye meets Ingmar Bergman in 1924 at the Norwegian Arctic Circle. And that's a good thing. It was added to "1001 Books You Must Read..." in 2012. Very strong images, sense of place and interesting protagonist. I read this in August '22.


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