Source: Review copy
Publication: 9 August 2018 from Doubleday
Liv died when she was just six years old. At least, that’s what the authorities think.
Her father knew he was the only one who could keep her safe in this world. So one evening he left the isolated house his little family called home, he pushed their boat out to sea and watched it ruin on the rocks. Then he walked the long way into town to report his only child missing.
But behind the boxes and the baskets crowding her Dad’s workshop, Liv was hiding. This way her Dad had said, she’d never have to go to school; this way, she’d never have to leave her parents.
This way, Liv would be safe.
What an immensely disturbing book this is. Beautifully written prose captivates from page one and never lets you go. Haunting, riveting, deeply disturbing, Resin is a class act that puts it high on my recommended must read list before the end of the first chapter.
Liv is the daughter of Jens and Maria Horder. The Horders live on an isolated peninsula in Denmark, sufficiently away from the closest village to preserve their privacy. She loves her mum and dad and enjoys nothing more than spending time with her father learning how to scavenge, from the forest, the town and anywhere that will yield materials that might one day be useful. Horders by name, hoarders by nature.
Told in the first person voice of seven year old Liv, we see and understand the world through her eyes and what she knows is what he father has taught her. She can make and use a bow and arrow, set traps and read and write, though she has never been to school.
Jens is a taciturn man. Those he loves, he loves with a passion, but he needs to keep them safe and close to him. Riven with grief, Jens simply cannot bear to part with anything. As his obsession grows so the family home becomes over-run with stuff, risking the family’s health and well being.
Jens has taught Liv how to scavenge, not just from outside, but from inside people’s homes, sheds and even from the local pub. Anything might come in handy, one day.
When she is six years old, Jens and Maria declare Liv dead to avoid having to send her to school or losing her to social services. From then on, Liv goes into hiding on the family’s land.
Slowly and with mounting horror and disbelief, we understand through Liv’s eyes just how deranged and obsessive Jens has become. Maria, her mother, takes to her bed and loses the ability to move, then finally to talk. But she leaves a series of tremendously sad and captivating letters for Liv that help to spell out what happened in their marriage and how they have ended up in this state of affairs.
It takes an outsider, the pub landlord Ronald, to do what Jen’s relatives have failed and to track Liv from the pub back to her cottage and discover the truly terrible state of squalor that Liv and her family live in.
What then transpires brings this part of Liv’s story to a shuddering close, though there are yet more surprises to come.
Riel’s use of the child’s narrative is breathtakingly well done and the horror comes as much from the matter of fact description as it does from the actual chilling events.
I found it strangely compelling, utterly captivating and horrifyingly compulsive. Resin is a horror story for the modern era; ignore the dire warnings of over consumption and consumerism at your peril.
Verdict: Dark, haunting, compulsive. A beautifully written contemporary horror story.
About Ane Riel
Ane Riel is a Danish author. Her second novel, HARPIKS, won The Glass Key Award as Best Nordic Suspense Novel of the Year in 2016. The English edition (RESIN) will be published by Transworld/Penguin and released on Aug 9th 2018.
It was also awarded best suspense novel of the year in Denmark, shortlisted for The Danish Broadcasting Company’s Best Novel Award and nominated for The Readers’ Best Novel Award. In 2017 it won ‘The Golden Bullet’ for best suspense novel translated into Norwegian and ‘Den Gyllene Kofoten’ for best suspense novel translated into Swedish.
Riel’s debut novel, SLAGTEREN I LISELEJE (The Butcher of Liseleje) was awarded Best Crime Novel Debut in Denmark in 2014. Both novels were originally published by Tiderne Skifter.
Follow Ane on Twitter @AuthorAneRiel