What’s Vuotjärvi all about?:
In the final short story of this collection, the serenity of a Finnish lake turns sinister when a woman’s lover does not return from his swim.
What did I think?:
I was disappointed to discover that Vuotjärvi was the last story in this collection, I’ve thoroughly enjoyed it and will definitely hunt for more books from Sarah Hall. I’m quite tempted to read her debut novel, Haweswater but I do already have a copy of her latest novel, The Wolf Border on my Kindle so stay tuned to discover which one I will pick! This story is set in the beautiful country of Finland where a young couple take up the offer of a cottage beside a lake (the Vuotjärvi of the title) for what looks to be their first holiday away together.
The story is told from the woman’s point of view as she watches her boyfriend swim out to the little island in the middle of the lake, expecting him to take about forty-five minutes to reach it. She watches until his head becomes a mere speck in the distance and then her mind wanders, re-living certain sensual moments of their relationship which the reader understands to be quite new and exciting as they haven’t yet said the pivotal three words “I love you.” When she looks out again to the lake, expecting to see him approaching or on the island she cannot see him which does not concern her at first – perhaps he has already got out of the water and is walking around the perimeter of the island after all.
However, when time passes by and she still cannot see her boyfriend, a mild panic begins to take over her and images of his body lying prone in the water come to her mind. She herself is not a strong swimmer and she recollects that she has already had a frightening experience when they were both swimming together in the lake where she felt as if she were being dragged down by something underneath. She debates for a while whether to rouse their neighbours and ask for help but decides that this may waste precious time so pulls their little rowing boat into the water and sets off towards the island herself, praying that she will see him at any moment.
This is when the story takes an even more sinister turn but I am wary of spoiling it. I think the beauty of this story lies in reading it yourself – all I will say is prepare for an eerie and dramatic last line! Sarah Hall seems to be a bit of a fan for ambiguous endings and, as ever, a lot is left open for the reader to explore with their own imagination. Mine is particularly vivid and there are multiple possible scenarios for a resolution, or not as the case may be. This tale was a perfect finale to the author’s first short story collection that combined beautiful moments of a couple in the first throes of love with creepy, unsettling prose and imagery that left me quite unsure at times whether I was reading a love story or a horror story! I am certain however that the darkness and passion of the author’s imaginings will stay with me and continue to unsettle me for a while yet.
Would I recommend it?:
But of course!
Star rating (out of 5):
NEXT SHORT STORY: Bibhutibhushan Malik’s Final Storyboard by Rajesh Parameswaran from the collection I Am An Executioner: Love Stories