30 minutes ago
It is the 1850s, and Håkan and his brother are sent from Sweden to New York in search of a better life. In Portsmouth, awaiting their next ship, the brothers are separated, and Håkan (who speaks no English) mistakenly ends up on a ship to California without his brother. Once arrived in California, in the midst of the Gold Rush, Håkan decides to cross America by land, in search of his brother in New York. He meets many people during his journey, capitalists and explorers, thugs and thieves, and the odd kind soul. But as he attempts to make his way east, to where he believes his brother will be waiting, events keep driving him back westwards.
It took me around 100 pages to really get into this book, but I’m so glad I persisted because I ended up reading the rest in a day. I do love a good Western, and this book provides plenty - the Gold Rush, vast desert and mountain landscapes, prospectors and bandits, caravans heading West, dusty towns with noisy taverns and all the associated undesirables. Håkan was a character who I really rooted for throughout. He is a kind and gentle soul, but is forced into brutality in order to survive. And essentially this book is about his survival, both physical and emotional, and the means that he resorts to in order keep going despite impossible odds.
‘In the Distance’ is Hernan Diaz’s first novel and was a finalist for the 2018 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, which was won by Andrew Sean Greer for ‘Less.’
If you are a fan of contemporary takes on a ‘Western’ (I’m thinking ‘West’ by Carys Davies, ‘The Sisters Brothers’ by Patrick deWitt) then you’d probably love this. I did! Also, it’s a stunning edition, published by Daunt Books. Definitely one I’ll be keeping for my shelves. at London, United Kingdom