Fiction Review: Girls Against God

This was an ARC from NetGalley.

Girls Against God, by Jenny Hval. Translated by Marjam Idriss
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This novel feels more like a piece of performance art. The story, such as it is, involves the narrator’s journey from a Southern Norway childhood; through international studies in Japan and the United States; and finally back to Norway, where she begins her art career. Along the way, she meets two other women, Venke and Terese, and they form an art group that’s alternately described as either a band or a coven. The narrator’s main goal seems to focus on writing a film.

It’s hard to tell whether any of this is actually happening, though, or to what extent the scenes described are real. The novel is narrated in a stream of consciousness style, which means that we never get out of the protagonist’s head or her view of the world. There’s virtually no dialogue (although the final chapters are structured like a film script). Rather, we’re offered lengthy meditations on music (specifically, Norwegian black metal), gender, language, witchcraft, and the brand of Christianity found in Southern Norway. This last topic might make it hard for readers to connect with the running theme of the narrator trying to escape the South and its religious atmosphere, unless they’re familiar with Norwegian regional culture.

In all, you might like this novel if you enjoy experimental works and are willing to push your reading boundaries. If you’re looking for a straightforward story with a traditional plot structure and character development, however, Girls Against God might not be for you.

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