Three Days in September is a hectic novel set in a small, remote town in Sweden. Originally written in Swedish by Luna Miller, the version I read was translated into English by Aidan Isherwood.
The story starts off following Gabriel, an artist looking for a change of scene so he can focus on his craft. He heads to Ludvika expecting peace and quiet, but ends up intertwined with the locals who are going through tumultuous times.
This silence. Wonderful but frightening. There and then he made a decision. He took his iPhone out of his inside pocket and switched it off, without even looking for messages or calls. He put it in the glove compartment, then closed and locked the car.
The book changes viewpoints to follow other characters, which adds depth to the tale of the long weekend. The narrative switches frequently to tell the stories of the locals as they try to find their way in life, often betraying one another to reach their own goals. Sadly, a lot of the time the decisions and interactions seem over the top, which can make it hard to relate to the characters.
There are touches to the storytelling that are beautiful. As the story line switches perspective, Miller cleverly adds sections of overlap to link things together – a driver going past an event at the end of the previous chapter, for example – which helps the reader keep track of when and where things are happening.
The writing itself, though, is often disjointed, and it takes a long time to get used to the broken style. In this translated version, I often found myself tripping up over the way a section was phrased or the way a character would communicate with another. This not only distracted from the flow of the story, but also made a lot of the characters hard to empathise with.
With a cast of half a dozen main characters, it’s hard to stay involved with what everyone’s up to. There are some that demand a greater empathy than others and while it takes a long time to warm up to Anna – a woman misunderstood by her friends and painted as a floozy who looked for love in all the wrong places – it was her story that was the most powerful and poignant by the end. Her search for love saw her sexually abused time and time again, and not just by one man, and the true extent of her troubles were only just beginning to come out when the story ended.
Then he noticed Anna, who had just been served her beer by Lea. She was lovely. A bit mad maybe. And far too easy to get into bed from what he’d heard.
It feels harsh to be so critical of a book which isn’t in its intended language, but as others may approach it not knowing of its origins it has to be judged as it’s presented. With a bit of copy-editing it could easily grab itself another star, but to really push for more, some of its characters need to have a bit more time spent on them, and their stories made more engrossing.