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the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction


Sinners in Summertime

Sigurd Hoel

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To purchase Sinners in Summertime

Title: Sinners in Summertime
Author: Sigurd Hoel
Genre: Novel
Written: 1927 (Eng. 1930)
Length: 199 pages
Original in: Norwegian
Availability: Sinners in Summertime - US
Sinners in Summertime - UK
Sinners in Summertime - Canada
Sinners in Summertime - India
Eine kleine Sommersünde - Deutschland
  • Norwegian title: Syndere i sommersol
  • Translated by Elizabeth Sprigge and Claude Napier
  • With an Afterword by Sverre Lyngstad
  • Sinners in Summertime has been made into a film twice: as Syndere i sommersol in 1934, directed by Einar Sissener, and as Syndare i sommarsol in 2001, irected by Daniel Alfredson

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Our Assessment:

B : a decent little curiosity, about 1920s Scandinavian modern life

See our review for fuller assessment.

Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
Aftenposten . 21/12/1927 Hans Aanrud
Arbeiderblad . 13/12/1927 O.R.Müller
Books . 20/7/1930 Ffloyd Dell
Dagens Nyheter . 11/2/1928 C.A.Bolander
Middagsavisen . 16/1/1928 Kristen Gundelach
Morgenbladet . 22/12/1927 C.J.Hambro
The Nation . 13/8/1930 .
The NY Times Book Rev. . 27/7/1930 .
Saturday Review . 23/8/1930 .
Scandinavian Studies . 3/2003 Jan Sjavik
Time . 28/7/1930 .

  From the Reviews:
  • "Mr. Hoel has a distinctive style, vivid, though at times too jerky for comfortable reading. It is very seldom that a sentence is more than two lines long, and many are only a few words." - The New York Times Book Review

  • "Sinners in Summertime, a somewhat sulphurous title for this report of a serious-minded and even noble experiment, tells about the summer holiday of four young men and four girls, Norwegians all, and all unmarried, emancipated, intellectual." - Time

Please note that these ratings solely represent the complete review's biased interpretation and subjective opinion of the actual reviews and do not claim to accurately reflect or represent the views of the reviewers. Similarly the illustrative quotes chosen here are merely those the complete review subjectively believes represent the tenor and judgment of the review as a whole. We acknowledge (and remind and warn you) that they may, in fact, be entirely unrepresentative of the actual reviews by any other measure.

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The complete review's Review:

       Sinners in Summertime is a novel of the 1920s, a group of twentysomethings spending a summer on the Norwegian coast. They think of themselves as modern and enlightened, familiar with the theories of psychoanalysis (and thus aware of the signs and dangers of certain behaviour), and not stuck in the ways of the older generation. They soon find, of course, that things are not quite that simple.
       A group of four young men, and one of four slightly younger women (and then a few visitors, unbalancing things even more), they rent a house for each and row back and forth to visit each other. They're a fairly impressive bunch, students finishing up significant projects or working towards the beginning of scholarly and professional careers, the women no less ambitious than the men -- though some have already moved towards the compromise of domesticity, so for example the girl engaged to a promising diplomat. They all have fairly grand plans of what they want to accomplish in these summer months -- deluding themselves that the setting and company won't get in the way. As the narrator, Fredrik, explains: "We only wanted to be comfortable, we wanted to be carefree and we wanted to work."
       Sex, inevitably, is a problem, and the possible permutations of romantic interest, jealousy, and obligation (as not everyone fully embraces enlightened attitudes) plus a good bit of deception eventually make for an incredible mess. The appearance of Astri's fiancé, Secretary of Legation Peter Mullendorff, and with him a Fearnley Jensen, -- neither of whom fit in among the freer ways of the vacation-spot -- makes for quite the clash and splash.
       Partner-swapping, misunderstandings, a suicide attempt (of sorts), and more make for a lively if occasionally muddled story: there are a lot of characters, doing a lot of things, and narrator Fredrik, quite overwhelmed by his own feelings, isn't always on top of all the goings-on. Comic exaggeration is one of the tools Hoel uses -- with some of the scenes (such as the opening one) very funny -- but the book isn't (or doesn't work as) pure satire.
       Early on Fredrik tries to get his bearings, coming up with this impressive piece of logic:

     Everyone deceives himself and no one cares to admit it. But then I was aware of that and admitted that I certainly deceived myself, so I in any case was not a self-deceiver.
       Self-deception is the main thread running through this novel -- compounded by the insistence of so many to play a role as well, to present a certain face (or body) at certain times, but far too rarely being true to themselves (or honest to others). The mores of society do still affect their actions, and psychological insight doesn't prevent them from falling into the same traps diagnosed by Freud and Adler and others. It turns out not to be very easy to be modern and leave all the old ways behind.
       Sinners in Summertime gives an interesting glimpse of 1920s Norwegian life -- free-spirited, and yet still fairly far from free. The youthful mix-ups and misadventures, the uncertainty about how to lives one's life, and what to do in life, remain universal, and in their somewhat free attitudes towards sex -- but that in a society that in many ways is still stifling -- it's also quite contemporary. While the novel feels a bit foreign, it's not particularly dated.

       The Ig Publishing edition is also of interest because of Sverre Lyngstad's useful Afterword, a good introduction to author Sigurd Hoel.

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Sinners in Summertime: Reviews: Sinners in Summertime - the films: Sigurd Hoel: Other books by Sigurd Hoel under review: Other books of interest under review:

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About the Author:

       Sigurd Hoel (1890-1960) was one of the leading literary figures in Norway in the first half of the 20th century.

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© 2005-2011 the complete review

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