This is a lyrical book ; in many places, a beautiful one. The narrative is driven by three instances of traumatic loss. Trond, now 67, has sought solitude in a little cottage, not much more than a shack, in the Norwegian hinterland. You could say that he is running away from the world, but to some extent he is also returning to something like the kind of rural environment in which, as a boy and teenager, he achieved greatest happiness. His relationship with this setting has its positive side. He looks forward to making practical improvements to the cottage and enjoys the companionship of his dog, Lyra. Though he is shutting himself off, there is no feeling that he expects or wishes to fade away. From this situation, he reviews his life, and information from the past emerges so that eventually we have a fairly complete picture of his formative years.
The book is really beautifully written. Descriptions of the surroundings, the trees, the water, the tracks, journeys (including one on horseback into Sweden), the simple life in the cottage are marvellous and sometimes deeply satisfying. A key element is Trond's relationship with his father (it is with his father that he makes the journey into Sweden), a crucial relationship in his life, and this is handled with understated delicacy. His father's life, which includes wartime work with the Norwegian resistance is seen through the boy's eyes. Trond may have become a recluse, but he is courteous and still likes people - he gradually makes contact with his neighbour, Lars, and he welcomes a visit from his daughter, though both of these encounters bring memories from the past which are not wholly positive. The book ends with a visit Trond and his mother make to Karlstad, and it would be quite natural for that ending to be bitter and negative, but it is not so, not at all, and we see that Trond, who has been through very hard times, is a survivor ; as his father had said (picking nettles) 'we decide for ourselves when it will hurt'.
The translation seems fine to me - it reads well. A feature of Petterson's style is the use of very long, rather meandering sentences, but he uses them with great skill, adding detail to detail in a way which works well.
Overall, it's an unusual book - a good thing! - and a thoughtful one - as The Independent reviewer wrote, 'a luminous story, a genuine work of art'.