Aud and proud

Aud rhymes with shroud. Aud rhymes with proud.

Aud Torvingen  is a hell of a character. She’s six feet tall of toughness, danger, ass-kicking, emotionally complex, Scandinavian blondness. A Norwegian expat living in Atlanta, Georgia, Torvingen consults for the police (she’s an ex-cop), works as a bodyguard, teaches self-defense, crafts her own furniture, tends her garden, and constantly thinks about the best way to kill someone.

And I lapped all this no-nonsense up. In a move uncharacteristic of me, I read my way straight through Nicola Griffith’s three Aud outings – The Blue Place, Stay, and Always. (Perhaps a new goal for 2012? Just read! That is, why save to savour? Why not savour now?!)

It is difficult to talk about the plots of these three books without spoilers. So essentially it’s a crime series. Not that Aud is a PI or anything, rather, these cases seem to sniff her out. So with most crime/mystery series, there are dead bodies and women of interest (both in terms of the case as well as romantic interest).

One of the biggest surprises that these books had for me were Griffith’s way with places. A very plenty surprise for an armchair traveler like me.  Aud travels home to Norway. It is gorgeous. Griffith makes me want to visit.

“It’s a land that doesn’t compromise. It’s snow, ice and darkness in the winter; and endless midnight sun, bright meadow flower and sweet green grass for two months in the summer. Black or white. On or off. Yes or no. It explains some of the way you react to what life throws at you, the pragmatic immediacy, the readiness – you never forget that there are trolls in the hills.”

I was especially taken with Vigeland Park, filled with sculptures by Gustav Vigeland such as this monolith.

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“‘Why do you suppose his work was so large?’ she said to herself as we descended the steps slowly. She stopped before the woman washing another woman’s hair. ‘It’s intimate, almost sexual, and yet quite ordinary. I suppose that’s what he was trying to say: everything is ordinary.’

‘He was saying everything in life is special. Every moment is a gift.'”

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This 80 acres park has 212 bronze and granite sculptures designed by Gustav Vigeland. I must say that this Wheel of Life is one of my favourites.

Griffith’s way with places makes me even want to visit North Carolina, a place that has not been on my list of must-sees. But she describes the woods in which Aud crafts her cabin so mesmerisingly, that I feel a desperate need to step outside, to stand under the shade of a big leafy tree (wrong season I know!), to inhale some fresh air.

“From the roof of my cabin I can see only forest, an endless canopy of pecan and hickory, ash and beech and sugar maple. Wind flows through the trees and down the mountain, and the clearing seems like nothing but a step in a great green waterfall. Even the freshly split shingles make me think of water. Cedar is an aromatic wood; warmed by the autumn sunlight of a late North Carolina afternoon, it smells ancient and exotic, like the spice-laden hold of a quinquereme of Nineveh. It would be easy to close my eyes and imagine a long ago ocean cut by oars – water whispering along the hull, the taste of spray…”

Hard as nails. I’m not sure if I’ve ever used that phrase before but it is exceptionally suited to Aud Torvingen (If there were a film version, I would imagine that Tilda Swinton would be quite suited to the part). But it’s not all about kicks and asses and ass-kicking, Aud is a character who grows, learns, develops, who eventually becomes a different person from the one you first imagine her to be. And yet she manages to stay true to herself. Aud is quite unforgettable.

4 Comments

  1. I did the same thing with these novels about ten years ago (!) when a friend first introduced me to them. I haven’t thought of them in years, but now I’m curious to revisit them. Thanks for reminding me of these books!

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  2. I still have the third to read in this series and am now doubly eager to do so; but I suppose it would be only “right” to re-read the first two first. I do remember the sense of place, so vividly recaptured, in her descriptions of returning to Norway (and the glacier): I loved that. (I’d also like to re-read Ammonite, and maybe Slow River, which I’m not sure I properly appreciated the first time, because I really wanted “another Ammonite”.) I like the way you conveyed your enthusiasm about this series without even remotely plot-chatting, even though the plot is relentless!

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    1. Hahah, well I’m glad that someone got something out of my rambling, non-plot-chatting “review”! I’m still on the fence about the third book. I enjoyed it, but still preferred the first two.

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