What lasts? What is it that determines what lasts?
That is the ontological question buried within this epistolary fiction by septuagenarian debut novelist Anne Youngson, a book I chose specifically because of her age. You gotta love underdogs like Frank McCourt, Harriet Doerr, and Laura Ingalls Wilder, who all began their publishing careers after the age of sixty—a benchmark I’m fast approaching.
When academic curiosity leads to a correspondence between an English housewife and Danish archaeologist, both seniors, quotidian cares are aired and friendship ripens into love. Their mutual interest in The Tollund Man, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5CQE4c8UJkM, Denmark’s remarkable bog mummy, is the catalyst that brings them together, but the ephemeral nature of life in modern times is what draws them closer. If friendship, marriage, parenthood, work, and dreams are ours for but a wink of time, how do we make that time count?
The audio version of this book, narrated by Helen Lloyd and Lars Knudsen, was at times mildly frustrating for the British and Danish accents that sent Googling with ill-conceived spellings place names and even the mummy himself, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing in my book. I’m disappointed when I leave a fiction without having learned something new about the world. Now I know that if I’m ever in Denmark, the Silkeborg Museum must be on my itinerary.
For a more introspective look at The Tolland Man, read Seamus Heaney’s poem referenced in the novel. https://www.ibiblio.org/ipa/poems/heaney/the_tollund_man.php