By Henning Markell
Lars Tobiasson-Svartman is a naval engineer charged with making depth soundings to find a navigable channel for the Swedish navy.
Close to where soundings are taken Lars discovers a barren skerry and is surprised to discover there a young woman, Sara Fredrika.
Depths by Henning Mankell is an unsettling read, it is also not an easy read. There were several points early in the book when I wasn’t sure I wanted to continue reading it, but, because it had been recommended by someone with good taste in books I decided to persevere.
This is the first book I have read by Henning Mankell and I have to say if this book is any indication then I love Mankell’s writing style, particularly the opening lines.
“They used to say that when there was no wind the cries of the lunatics could be heard on the other side of the lake.
Especially in Autumn. The cries belonged to Autumn.”
Depths begins with a woman standing in front of a hole in a fence and realises that hole represents freedom. It is autumn 1937 and the woman in question has been locked away in an asylum for many years. Her name is Kristina Tacker.
Slowly during the course of her escape Kristina remembers she was once married to a man named Lars.
Kristina’s escape is short-lived and the reader learns that she has not spoken in twelve years. Her hospital notes repeatedly consist of the same words: ‘The patient is still beyond reach.’
The bulk of the book is set 23 years earlier with her husband embarking on a secret mission. Lars loves his wife very much but he feels like there is something missing.
“Kristina Tacker was not only his wife. She was also the invisible lid he used to cover the abyss.”
As the book progresses the extent to the abyss becomes clear as Lars’ behaviour becomes much more disturbing.
During his time away from home Lars comes upon a wild-looking island with a small cabin perched on the edge. In this cabin is a woman called Sara Fredrika, a woman he cannot get out of his head.
As Depths progresses Lars feels himself drawn closer to Sara and the island. As this happens the reader learns that Lars is not all he seems and the book begins to become much more disturbing.
Initially, I was unsure if I was going to continue with the book as it was a bit too bleak, too desolate and I wasn’t sure if it would be for me. However, I was pleased I continued reading it. This book was chilling but well-worth reading.
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