Borderliners is a peculiar book, and even after having finished it, I'm still not quite sure what to make of it. Peter Hoeg, the Danish writer, is best known for his gripping thriller, Miss Smilla's Feeling for Snow. If you come to Borderliners expecting a similar sort of read you're going to be disappointed, as it's a very different book altogether.

The novel is set in the Danish care system of the 1960s during an attempt to integrate "damaged" children into mainstream education. The results when 3 children, Peter, Katarina, and August, meet will have horrific consequences. At times gentle and loving, there are some moments in this book that are very hard to read, it is, at times, very violent, and even in the gentler moments, such as Peter's relationship with the child, August, violence lurks very close beneath the surface.

The children are obsessed with time - what is time? How does it move? Can it be stopped? And I found some of the lengthy musings on time difficult to read. They stopped the narrative flow and really seemed to drag. Although thinking about that, as I'm writing this, this may have been the whole point, as the pace of the book alternated rapidly between the "time" sections and the narrative sections.

Another strange point was the author's own involvement with the book. Part way through you discover that the lead character "Peter" is actually "Peter Hoeg". So is he the author? Or what the author may have been? Or just a projection of the author? This is reinforced in the Harvill Panther edition (catch a glimpse in the slideshow above) with a very clever cover, which looks uncannily like a younger version of the author's portrait on the back cover.

An interesting novel, one to read, but probably not one to want to read again. For a very different novel from Smilla but more fun to read try Hoeg's The History of Danish Dreams


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