Dominant themes in Per Petterson's striking novel are solitude and memories. Trond, a recent widower, retreats to a small cottage in the isolated forests of Norway (but within driving distance from Oslo) after the death of his wife. With his dog, Lyra, for a companion, engaged in hard physical work and in simple, uncluttered surroundings, he delves back into the past remembering the events of the summer of 1948 which he spent in similar surroundings and in close relationship with his father. Those memories spark off his reconstruction of what he had heard of the events during the Nazi occupation of Norway - events which eventually drew his father away from his wife and family and left Trond to face young adulthood and the rest of his life, fatherless. However, the most successful scene in the novel, in my view, is Trond's recollection of an outing with his mother - a single time when she rose above her hopeless situation as an abandoned wife and in which mother and son walked side by side in joyful companionship.
My two dear Norwegian friends have so often described the little wooden cottages with no running water and outside toilets in the Norwegian countryside which families hold dear as getaways both in winter and summer. I feel that I can see the wood stove, the scrubbed floorboards, the gaslamp, a brightly coloured woolen blanket tossed on the bunk and the stout door barricading the snow and cold outside. At present as the year hurtles to its closure, I wish I could escape to solitude in a hut in the snowy woods of Norway - just for a day or two!
Oh, and the enigmatric title? That refers both to boyish pranks and the code name given to 'outlawed' activities of the Norwegian resistance during WWII.