Stella Descending

On a warm summer’s night in Oslo, Martin draws Stella into one of the risky games that have defined their ten years together: a balancing act on the edge of their rooftop, nine storeys up. Amid the shouts of horrified onlookers, Stella stumbles, falling for a moment into Martin’s arms before plummeting to her death. (Did he try to save her?) So begins Linn Ullmann’s transfixing tale of Stella—jealous wife, forbearing lover, angelic nurse, unloved daughter, devoted mother, and finally, a woman possessed of a secret now for-ever lost to the living. As Stella’s life unfolds in the recollections of those she has left behind, we observe the fabric of many lives unraveling. And as Stella herself bears witness from a place beyond death, we come to understand how precarious her life was behind its facade of loveliness and order.

With a quiet power, Stella Descending gives us the backlit dailiness—and the dark metaphysical underworld—of life in a fabled metropolis. And in brilliantly evoking the loneliness that haunts all our intimacies, it becomes a fable of life everywhere.

Reviews

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Praise for Stella Descending

…her talent is as unique as it is prodigious. Her first novel, Before You Sleep, was received to international acclaim. Her second, so often an author’s stumbling block, confirms Ullmann as a writer of empathy and poise. In spare, beautifully crafted prose, Stella Descending whittles away the deceptions that pervade our intimate relationships to expose a gnawing isolation from which only a temporary respite seems possible. It is a painful, deeply distressing novel and yet its cumulative impact produces the opposite- the kind of elation you can get only in the presence of great art.
– CAMERON WOODHEAD, THE AGE (Australia)
After her first novel Before You Sleep, the 36 year old literary critic … with Stella Decending once again succeeds in writing a book about longing, dreams and the absurdities of life. Simply beautiful.
– CAROLINE FRIES, SÜDDEUTSCHE ZEITUNG (Germany)
Exquisitely written … a troubling examination of the ways that love can be as much of a balancing act as being poised on the edge of a rooftop, desperately hoping to avoid the inescapable fall.
– CAROLINE LEAVITT, THE WASHINGTON POST BOOK WORLD (USA)
Ullmann … has a knack for uncovering rich, off-beat details that lend this disturbing story a breath of black humor
– CONNIE OGLE, THE MIAMI HERALD (USA)
… from her debut novel, Before You Sleep, to its weird and wonderful follow-up, Stella Descending, Ullmann has effortlessly established herself a disctinct literary voice … A haunting decontruxtion of the mystery genre, offering no easy answers, but loads of eerie atmosphere. In short, a total original
– ELLE (USA)
Ullmann is masterfully precise with language, pinning a wealth of detail in a simple phrase
– EMMA PERRY, TIME OUT (UK)
Exquisite … The atmosphere and taut pacing make this an icily swift read, one whose chill lingers longer than a Scandinavian winter
– ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY (USA)
a clever and wise book that is highly readable
– JAMES SMART, SUNDAY HERALD (UK)
… practically magical in its imagery … Ullman’s writing is sparse but not dry, sober without being humorless …The picture of Stella falling … as the novel folds and unfolds, is one that won’t go away anytime soon.
– JULES VERDONE, THE BOSTON GLOBE (USA)
… haunting, elegiac … A very strange tale that could have been unbearably pretentious — but it’s deft and light enough to work, creating just the right atmosphere of foreboding and regret.
– KIRKUS REVIEW (USA)
Stella Decending is a melancholic, highly literal novel about the inextinguishable longing for intimacy and love in human beings.
– KIRSTEN SCHMIDT, HAMBURGER MORGENPOST (Germany)
[A] chilly tale of children who grow up too fast and of adults who don’t grow up at all. This work will appeal to those who don’t mind the absence of a single sympathetic character
– LIBRARY JOURNAL (USA)
[Ullman]’s gift is for weaving the banal details of love, career and family with the mystic world of dreams and ghosts into one seamless fabric … The hypnotic allure of the story adds to the reader’s eagerness to return to Stella and share the enigma of her final flight.
– MARY ELIZABETH WILLIAMS, THE NEW YORK TIMES BOOK REVIEW (USA)
Surrealistic … in the original 1920s sense: as a work of art that blurs the borders between mundane reality and the reality of fantasies and dreams … Where Ullmann differs is in her humor … her snappy prose and cheeky attitude
– MICHAEL HARRIS, LOS ANGELES TIMES BOOK REVIEW (USA)
Unconditional, defenceless and filled with fundamental contradictions … Not since Beckett has silence so effectively been used.
– NICOLA BARDOLA, BUCHMARKT (Germany)
Ullmann’s grasp of the ambiguous natures of her people and her understanding of their background is admirably strong. The governing metaphor of the fall, and of the density in those two seconds, is at once poetic and intellectually satisfying … she has a keenness of ear and eye, and a sharpness of mind, that is all her own.
– PAUL BINDING, THE INDEPENDENT (UK)
[W]onderfully strange …Ullmann pairs her native Scandinavian starkness with playful prose … to peculiar, pleasing effect …[T]he reward is an emotionally rich and layered story about the elusiveness of truth.
– PUBLISHERS WEEKLY (USA)
Ullmann is a fine writer, complex, intelligent and scrupulous. The drama of private life, and of the here and now, continues to require voices such as hers.
– RACHEL CUSK, DAILY TELEGRAPH (UK)
Throughout, Ullmann’s writing flows like music and her characters remain intriguing
– TONY DUSHANE, SF STATION (USA)