I feel like Resin by Ane Riel would have been an old wives’ tale back in the day. It would have served as a cautionary tale about coveting too many things and never having enough; it would have been told to prevent gluttony and hoarding. Resin is a dark, atmospheric story which sits alongside the likes of My Absolute Darling by Gabriel Tallent, owning similar characters and remote settings, psychotic fathers and young, impressionable daughters. I will say though, in comparison, Resin is not as sexually triggering. However, TRIGGER WARNING: infant and animal deaths!!!
Resin by Ane Riel follows the life of Liv Horder with her father, Jens, her mother Maria and her grandmother Else. In the first line, I knew this story would be dark, as Riel launches in with Liv recounting her grandmother’s death at the hands of her father. The way she talks about it so matter-of-fact sets the tone for this family and the rest of the novel. Things and stuff are important to Jens Horder, but so are people, but only the ones who do not threaten his way of life. And they must be kept and preserved forever. He cannot lose anything or anyone. Liv is just seven years old, and her father sends her on errands in the dead of night to steal food and useful items from nearby houses and businesses, including their local pub. Jens hoards everything she brings, claiming that they must take care of every single item, until they are buried in stuff, filth, animal faeces and themselves. What will Jens do when their lives are disrupted?
What I liked…
I enjoyed Resin by Ane Riel because it is telling an important story. It offers a warning of not only how we handle things that we buy, but also how we covet people and can be overprotective at times. It is told in such a way that I was gripped from the first line and, while I may have had to gather my thoughts every now and then, it is mostly a fast-paced novel told by a sympathetic narrator. I liked Liv’s character as she battled with her sense of duty towards her family and her father especially, whilst also maintaining her childlike wonder about what else could be out there. I like that she questions things, but does not know any other way, and she shows real character development from the incident with her grandmother to later parts of the novel.
I felt that Liv’s mum, Maria was a rather weak character. She simply enabled her husband’s behaviour and allowed herself to become a product of his mental state. It is as though he not only hoards things in the house, but also in her until she can no longer talk to him or move. I felt sorry for Liv having such an absent mother, but this perpetuated my sympathies for her, as she had nothing and nobody to tell her right from wrong, and had only the words of her deranged father to go by. She is a strong character who survives based on her own personal merit.
What I didn’t like
There were two main issues with this book: the blurring of events and Liv’s character as treated by her parents and by the author. Firstly, the events of the book, including Liv’s trips out in the middle of the night, her animal interactions and conversations with her father all appeared to blur into one at times, which I didn’t always enjoy. They were quite repetitive without much content to further the story along. Until we started hearing from the pub owner’s point of view, I found this slowed the narrative down a bit.
And Liv’s character treatment: She is seven years old. This is far too young, in my experience to be able to understand and execute thieving tasks in the middle of the night like she does. I used to teach young girls ballet, and even seven year olds were difficult to teach and follow instruction. Therefore, I feel as though Riel put too many expectations on Liv’s shoulders, while her parents are just terrible people. What kind of father would let his seven year old daughter run around town at night stealing from people’s houses?
Overall, this is a four star book. I would have rated it five stars had Liv been a bit less mature and more true to her age. I would recommend this book for anyone looking for something slightly disturbing, that deals with mental issues and offers a word of warning for actions such as coveting and gluttony. Thank you Alison Barrow from Transworld for my proof copy of Resin by Ane Riel in exchange for an honest review. It is a most thought-provoking novel.