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A Modern Family by Helga Flatland

Article by Swirl and Thread ©.
Posted in | .

Winner of the Norwegian Booksellers’ Prize and a number one bestseller, A Modern Family is the English debut by Helga Flatland. Described as the Norwegian Anne Tyler, Helga Flatland made her literary debut in 2010, with this, A Modern Family, being her fifth book.

A Modern Family is a book for everyone, in particular those of us with siblings. It is described as a book that ‘encourages us to look at the people closest to us a little more carefully, and ultimately reveals that it’s never too late for change…’ I had absolutely no preconceived expectations when picking up this book and was very pleasantly surprised with what I discovered. As a translated book there is always that fear that it’s context will not translate well from it’s original language and, by that, I mean the story-line, the plot, the setting. But this is an Orenda publication and, as other recent little Orenda gems have shown me, Karen O’ Sullivan (of Orenda) knows the books we all need to read, the books that would not be available to us all without her amazing and inspiring input and determination.

Helga Flatland is a Norwegian writer and Rosie Hedger has done an incredible job translating her words and feelings into this wonderful piece of writing. A Modern Family is a simple story, a story about a family experiencing changes in their lives, some more traumatic than others.

Liv, Ellen and Håkon are siblings, in that order, all unwittingly falling into the expected positions within their family dynamic as eldest, middle and youngest child. On holidays in Italy to celebrate their father’s seventieth birthday, they are all unprepared for the shocking news that their parents are to divorce. An unexpected blow to all their lives, this announcement is about to cause a seismic shift in their family and with their relationships with each other. Up to this point it was always assumed that their parents, while seeming to have very opposite personalities, somehow fit together. But when their parents inform them all that this has been brewing for many years, the siblings are shaken to the core. All they had believed, everything they had built their own lives upon, is about to disappear.

A Modern Family explores the thoughts, feelings and expectations of Liv, Ellen and Håkon, as they navigate this new road they find themselves on. The book is divided into sections, each devoted to the perspective of one sibling. This technique is quite fascinating as it allows for the exploration of what each sibling perceives to be the truth. We all are guilty of making assumptions, of not listening, of being righteous but sometimes it’s important to step back and take a close look at ourselves and our relationship with others, in particular those closest to us. Helga Flatland expertly explores how very easy it is for us to see what we want to see, to adapt a situation to our own personal liking and expectations. We all have a role to play in our families but sometimes we take, and are taken, for granted. We all need to look at the bigger picture and consider the possibility of change. Change can be a positive thing. Change can open up some amazing opportunities, filling our lives with positive experiences. We can all learn something from this book, take something away from it and use it, use it to think a little more and perhaps understand that life changes us all. We are all constantly enriching our lives through change and surely this can only be a good thing….

A Modern Family is a very engaging novel, a fascinating insight into how we all choose to see ourselves and those around us. It is a very simple tale in many ways, but at it’s core there is a very astute understanding of human nature, an intelligent portrayal of the family dynamic. A Modern Family is a subtle and sensitive book, a touching reminder of the importance of cherishing and nurturing the many relationships we have in our lives.

(c) Swirl and Thread

Order your copy online here.