I can't even remember how I came across these little gems, but as winter spreads her frosty cloak over the north of England once more, I turn to comfort reads: for me, these are snowy reads, cold reads, Northern and Eastern European reads. Alberta and Jacob, Alberta and Freedom and Alberta Alone are a trilogy of loosely veiled autobiographical novels by Cora Sandel, and follow the life of the eponymous heroine from her native Norway to Paris and back again through the late Edwardian period. Alberta is not easy to like - perhaps she reminds me too much of myself, the girl with a thousand dreams who sits around waiting for life to happen to her instead of setting out to happen to life. But then, I think that part of Alberta's popularity (the books are essential reading for all young woemn in Scandinavia, I believe) stems from the dichotomy of her striking individuality and her role as an everygirl. Like so many of us, she is simultaneously extraordinary and utterly unremarkable.
Only the former, though, is true of the books themselves. Even in translation, Sandel's beautiful turn of phrase melts across every icy page, and her descriptions of the tiny, isolated village in which Alberta is brought up and from which she longs to escape are breathtakingly realised. You will snuggle ever deeper into your duvet as you read of Alberta's constant sneaking into the kitchen for forbidden cups of coffee around which to warm her frozen fingers, and the glacial tragedy that befalls her parents in the second book will have you hugging your hot water bottle tighter and tighter.
If the sudden change in temperature this weekend has left you craving something fittingly literary, allow me to nudge you gently in the direction of these fabulous Norwegian classics.