The Blackbird Sings at Dusk by Linda Olsson – 2016

blackbirdYou just have to let yourself drift with this one – it is beautifully written and nicely plotted, but a little heavy handed with the symbolism and message.  Elizabeth is slowly fading away in her Stockholm apartment when a neighbour, Elias, intrudes by way of an incorrectly delivered parcel (they share the same surname).  The intrusion spreads to an upstairs neighbour, Otto, when Elizabeth has to approach him for help when disaster strikes Elias.  And the three rather sad loners, one young, one middle aged and one approaching seventy, tentatively enter into friendship.  Of the three we get to know Otto the most and he is the caterer and organiser of most of their gatherings.  Otto comes from a literary background and there are nice literary quotes throughout.  Elias is a talented artist with severe dyslexia – so Otto has taken on the role of literature interpreter for him – and we find out about him mainly from his new art project, inspired by his first glimpse of Elizabeth.  We discover Elizabeth has had a large and eventful past, but her present has been purposely reduced and we just have to accept her as Otto and Elias find her.   It is a sad and minor key read – the sort that has you dreading a happy outcome.  The Swedish setting allows effective use of seasons to aid mood and the sense of ‘not quite fitting in’ that is expressed by each of the three characters.  And of course the presence and absence of the blackbird – prefigured very nicely by a Wallace Stevens’ epigraph – is used to good effect.

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