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Astrid the Unstoppable

A resilient heroine sparkles in this prize-winning Norwegian tale

Astrid feels it is extremely important to sing when you’re skiing. Also a fearless ‘sledge pilot,’ Astrid spends many happy hours whizzing gleefully through her home valley of Glimmerdal. But her exuberance masks a brow-furrowing problem. There are no children to play with! Not only that, she lives unfortunately close to the ‘quietest holiday camp in Norway,’ run by an irascible gentleman who despises noisy children. What is the ‘little thunderbolt of Glimmerdal’ to do? Astrid the Unstoppable is Maria Parr’s second novel, and the 2009 winner of several prestigious prizes in her home country of Norway. Finally translated into English, it’s a must-read for fans of feisty girl adventurers.

Astrid is lucky enough to have a best friend, even if it is Gunnvald, a 74-year-old man with eyebrows like ‘two worn-out toothbrushes.’ His workshop is like a second home, where they construct endless grand projects together. Gunnvald is warm and wise, but often melancholic. He is harbouring a heartbreaking secret, which is set to test the very limits of their friendship.

As unstoppable as the book title suggests, Astrid attempts to deal with Gunnvald, her own lonely moments, and the sheer bad luck of being a boisterous child living next to the quietest holiday camp in Norway. The tone shifts considerably throughout. Astrid’s fizzing bravado leads to many funny moments, but there is also pain.The world of adult secrets and mistakes is hard for her to understand. The setting is vivid, with its hunting of deer for venison stew, whispering spruce trees, and candles to chase away the darkness.

I’ve never read a book that contained so many sledging scenes, but it was delightful. Picture Astrid whizzing down the snowy slopes, her hair ‘…blown back along the sides of her helmet like go-faster stripes,’ singing at the top of her voice.

Astrid the Unstoppable is published by Walker Books, 320 pages.

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