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Review by Eygló Svala Arnarsdóttir.
The nightmarish thriller I Remember You (originally published as Ég man þig in 2010) by Yrsa Sigurðardóttir is in fact two stories that both take place in the dead of winter in the remote West Fjords and become intertwined.
Young couple Katrín and Garðar take their recently-widowed friend Líf to the abandoned village Hesteyri where they intend to renovate a house they bought as a hotel. Soon, strange and frightening things start to happen and due to bad weather and inability to communicate with the outside world, they cannot leave.
Psychiatrist Freyr has escaped his life in Reykjavík to work in Ísafjörður in the West Fjords, trying to leave behind haunting memories of a son who mysteriously disappeared and a mentally-disturbed ex-wife. After the police consult him on vandalism at a local kindergarten, he discovers connections with incidents that took place in the town decades earlier and his own personal tragedy.
Half-way through I noticed what I wasn’t missing: the lawyer Þóra who has solved the crimes in Yrsa’s past suspense stories. I’ve always found her a rather dull character and the description of her family life an unnecessary diversion from the actual plot.
What I did miss, though, was a down-to-earth approach to the storyline, a counterbalance to the supernatural that drives it and explodes towards the end.
So far, the ghostly aspects of Yrsa’s stories have gradually faded out and once all the cards are on the table, the reader can choose to believe that the however far-fetched the events may have been, they were, after all, of this world.
What I’ve always liked about Yrsa’s writing is that she leaves no loose threads. What seems totally random and unconnected at first is brought together in the end, giving the reader an ‘aha’ moment.
In I Remember You there is too much left unexplained. There are too many threads, some of which are left untied. The reader is left with too many questions.
I like a good ghost story and have no problem flexing my imagination to make a dead person’s vengeance seem probable enough.
But there must be some logic in the plot. For example, if the apparition is tied to a certain location, how can it haunt people in every corner of the country?
According to The Independent, Yrsa’s writing is equal to that of horror master Stephen King in creating a hair-raising atmosphere and I can attest to that. I Remember You caused me some sleepless nights.
Tension gradually builds up and the story certainly kept my attention all the way through. But the showdown was disappointing. There was just too much going on and too little explained.
Perhaps the horror genre is just not my cup of tea and other readers may be satisfied with things not quite working out. Some critics even call I Remember You Yrsa’s best book.
Riding the wave of the book’s success, the author’s most recent publication, Kuldi (‘Cold’; 2012), is also a ghost story and both books will be filmed.
Yrsa has a knack for making readers picture a vivid setting and I can see how I Remember You might make a good horror movie. A well-written screenplay might solve the problems I had with the book and I’m interested in watching the outcome.
In spite of my criticism of Þóra the lawyer, I did prefer Yrsa’s latest crime thrillers in which she was present, Auðnin (2008; The Day is Dark, English version published in 2011), Horfðu á mig (2009; ‘Look at Me’) and Brakið (2011; ‘The Wreck’) to I Remember You, and might leave her ghosts out in the cold.
Eygló Svala Arnarsdóttir – email@example.com