Otti’s Escape, Contemporary Fiction (1950s – 70s). When the German troops invade the city, Othilie escapes unharmed – or so it seems. 30 years later, with her daughter missing and her husband lost to alcohol – can Otti again escape her fate?
@wagnersgot http://readersgazette.com/world/moreinfo/B00LV009BS/ … As the German troops march on the city, 10yearold Othilie #books 87
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Interview with Marianne Wagner on The Writers’ Lens
Post-war Norway sets stage for love triangle gone wrong
Welcome to MARIANNE WAGNER, who grew up in Norway before leaving her studies of Law in Oslo and traveling to London where she sang and played in bands. While in London, she studied Existential Psychotherapy and embarked on a journey of physical and spiritual healing. She has a son and now lives in Devon.
What brings fiction into focus for you? When a character comes to life–you recognise a part of yourself within the fictional persona and start wondering if it could under some other circumstance have been you thinking and feeling as he/she does, perhaps in a different place, amongst different people? At times through a fictional person you can gain some deeper understanding of yourself or those close to you.
What do you think readers will like about your book? I think the readers may be able to identify with some of my characters, which all have some very positive sides but are also all flawed, caught up in their own insecurities, needs and desires. In their struggle to get through their days and find some happiness they create obstacles and general havoc both for themselves and the people they love. – and then when they think they have found some stability the unexpected happen…
What makes your book/characters unique? This story, about Othilie, her two husbands and four daughters, is set in post-war Norway and gives a unique insight into Norwegian society and culture, much influenced by the prevalence of the icy climate as well as repeated loss of sovereignty to other powers, first the Danish, then the Swedes and lastly during Otti’s own childhood, five years of German occupation.
What tune/music could be the theme song for your book? The theme song to Otti’s Escape would be Wonderful life by Black: Alluring and bitter-sweet.
OTTI’S ESCAPE: During the post-war euphoria of new possibilities and freedoms, Othilie decides to marry the wealthy Fredrik Holst, in spite of a warning from their mutual friend Bernard before the wedding insinuating that Fred has a mistress.
However, Otti soon discovers that her new freedom comes at a price. As their relationship becomes increasingly acrimonious, Fred finally goes too far and finds himself in a position where he can no longer return to their home.
Finding comfort in her old friend Bernard, Othilie. tries to move on, but disaster strikes and Ottis inability to conceal her grief throws open the door on the charade that is supposed to be her new love. As her family disintegrates around her, the echoes of her flight from the Nazi invasion ring down through the years, as again Otti has to flee her home. Can Otti escape her fate this time?
On Amazon: bookShow.me/B00LV009BS
Otti’s Escape will be 99p on ebook stores for all of December!
You can find Mairanne Wagner at: Webpage:http://www.troubador.co.uk/book_info.asp?bookid=2936
Crisp white snow, a dark starry sky, – listen to the church bells toll at 5pm on Christmas Eve!
It is the start of the Christmas celebrations in the frozen Norwegian capital of Oslo.
Excerpt from Otti’s Escape:
Up on the hill in the suburbs Otti’s father threw the door wide open and let Otti and her family in. They brought with them gusts of cold wind and snow on their boots. The hallway smelt of roasted pork and sauerkraut. It was good to get inside, out of the frosty dark.
Liv opened the door from the kitchen. She had on a red and green apron printed with Christmas-motifs, and her hair was newly set. It shone bluish-black as usual, but was nowadays sprinkled with strands paleing into ivory, mirroring her pearl necklace nesting so amicably in the hollow of her neck. There were hugs and handshakes for everyone as they were led into the warm lounge. Otti looked at her mother in surprise. She looked immaculate as usual, but she had not noticed before how old she had become. She took her mother’s hand and put her cold windblown cheek to hers in a hug. It seemed Liv had somehow shrunk since she had last seen her.
The table was set for dinner, and as dark had fallen soon after 3 o’clock, at 5:45 it already felt late in the evening. Her mother smiled: “It will be ready in 15 minutes.”
“Come on in,” her father urged. He waved them through to the lounge. There were Ellen and Bjorn with Tommas and Helene. “A glass of Sherry?” Father offered.
At the dinner table, August stood up and read the Gospel according to Luke: “Now, it happened in those days that a decree went out from Caesar Augustus…” They all listened politely while the story of Jesus’ birth was told. Then it was Liv’s turn to have her snaps: The glass went bottoms up, and around the table they all cheered, as Liv shuddered at the impact of the pure, strong Aquavita. She sat down again and started passing around the dishes.
Otti handed the roast to Ester, while August enlisted Bjorn’s help in filling up glasses with beer and Aquavita all round. Then soft drinks for the children. He finally switched off the ceiling lights and sat down. They were all gathered around the table in the half-lit room, candles burning in nooks and crannies, the star-sprinkled Christmas tree brightly lighting the alcove to the garden. In the background, August’s favourite Christmas carols were playing softly on the gramophone. They could all finally relax and tuck into their heartening warm meal, absorb the comfort of their ritual eating.
Otti tried to shake off the upheavals of the last few days. You knew exactly where you were with family. It freed the mind. At home they were all in their rightful places; they knew who they were, and what to say, what you could and couldn’t do, right and wrong. It was how it had always been. Still, it seemed to Otti that everything had changed and they were all different people to whom they had been just yesterday. She had not fully known herself. She had not seen her own actions clearly. How could she be sure of what other’s had seen? It seemed now as if she would have to get to know them all again.
For a while they all fell quiet, the only sound around the table was the ringing of cutlery against china. Liv offered the pork and crackling around a second time, and then sausages, sauerkraut, gravy, potatoes. They all filled their plates up. There was an empty chair opposite Otti; Liv had quickly taken away Bernard’s place setting on her request, but Otti had not felt like giving an explanation.
Just as Liv and Ellen brought in the rice pudding and crème caramel they all started as the phone rang. Liv put the raspberry sauce down on the table and picket the receiver up. “Oh, Monika!” All heads turned staring at Liv’s face. They were trying to read her expression of jumbled relief and dismay. Relief surely meant Monika was OK, and dismay: Nobody expected Liv to approve of the behaviour of her runaway granddaughter.
Ottis Escape succeeds in being intimate and epic, skillfully interweaving the past and present with Norway’s majestic landscape and its pervading chill. Ottis presence – like a chill- is felt throughout the story – even when she is absent- through the impact she has on the two men in her life, Frederik and Bernard, her daughters (especially the painfully fragile Monika), and Mrs Risen- her charismatic mother and nemesis.
Ottis dealings with rejection, family, marriage, parenthood, trauma, death, grief and impending loneliness are chilling and unapologetic; and and following a series of devastating incidents beyond her control, and perhaps subconsciously of her doing, we finally and satisfyingly get to the heart of this enigmatic character who frustrates and beguiles in equal measures.
Ottis escape is a subtle and compelling page turner; a fraying and often familiar tapestry of manners, traditions, unrequited passions, betrayals, and ultimately survival. In addition to its poetic sweep, captured each time like a few strokes from an artists brush, the storys other strength, and its driving force, is the authors ability to inhabit the psychology of each character so that we are left rooting for them-warts and all; and no less so for Otti whose epiphany reveals a wound that is also a deeply touching statement about the effects of war on a frightened little girl.
by anthony grant
How to write a novel…if only I could tell you…
There must be as many ways to write a book as there are writers, so here I go again: On the walls of the bedroom is the blueprint of the next story. Well, not directly on the wall, in my case, but on a rolled out line of wrapping paper that is by now nearly covered over in ‘post-its’describing various elements of the heroes and villains to come.
Otti’s Escape was a stop and start kind of affair, a bit of organic exploration of personalities and ideas, and many years later after a lot of ‘weeding’ and rewriting, it all started to make sense. Something in the way of a story and some acceptable language slowly emerged. No wall posters or ‘post-its’ involved that time.
This one will be different! I have a plan. I have a storyboard stuck up on the wall. – and having announced my intentions I had better stick to it! Ouch!
Did I mention that I am starting in a new 9-5 job this week? – just so you don’t hold your breath just yet; it will be getting up at 5 again and writing until 7, before getting the bus to the office. It might take time.
But if you write you write and needs must and all that… stories have to be told!
In the mean while, perhaps I could amuse you with something I wrote at creative writing class:
All afternoon Jasper hid behind the curtains, he made sure they were tightly drawn. He had woken up early, the morning sun pressing on his window, and so he had turned away towards the wall and pulled the blanket over his head. But nothing seemed to help. The birds where chirping in the treetops.
Then he had been stupid enough to get out of bed and take a look outside. Yes, he saw the bright yellow signs heralding spring, right there across the road. Primroses and daffodils. They were out.
Spring was supposed to bring something good. It was about the rebirth of nature, the complete turning of the wheel of seasons, the triumph of resilience and optimism. He knew what it meant but he hadn’t felt familiar with those sentiments for years. When the sun shone, he saw more clearly the darkness within himself. The only sunshine he could remember were the smiles of Elisa and Petite. Elisa had been his girl and their daughter, well, Petite wasn’t really her name, but she had been so tiny growing up, Elisa had always called her that, and the name stuck. Fourteen years Elisa and he had been together, until the drinking and the constant quarrels had finally got too much.
When Elisa walked out Petite’s frame had still been dainty but the gob on her was everything but. That girl knew how to swear. Where she had got it from he could not imagine!
He had not seen them again, not for eight years now.
Jasper chuckled to himself. The thought of them both made him feel a longing in his body so strong, it felt like a Hoover in his stomach, something trying to suck him dry. Or a bit like being pumped at the A &E. He smiled again to himself; those had been crazy heady days, before he had gone tea-total. The nearest he ever got to the action now was when he was serving at the soup-kitchen down town.
As the afternoon sun finally moved east and let go of his windowpane, Jasper felt his tense contracted body ease up a little. He had got through the day but the suction was still there in his stomach. There was nothing else for it, he decided, it would be a soup -kitchen day. Having made the decision he felt better and quickly threw on some old jeans and a jumper. They were always glad for his help at the shelter when the homeless came in for their dinners, served between five and seven.
It was cold and drafty at the shelter, the heating budget was always kept to a minimum, but the steam from the long row of Bain Marie’s kept Jasper snug and warm. Besides it was busy work.
“Here you go, my love.” He handed the plate over to a skittish young man in too little clothes, his arms were red and dry from cold, before he turned to the next in line. It was a woman. You didn’t get many of those visiting, it was mostly men that ended up needing room and free dinners. She had a bruiser of a black eye and was huddled inside a faded red coat. The coat had gold buttons and was much too large for her, but she wore it as if she had acquired a treasure. Jasper smiled and offered the woman a choice of dinners.
“Give me the lamb, with the mash and two sausages on the side.” The woman ordered. Her voice was raspy and warm. “And none of that carrot stuff!”
In a daze Jasper held the full plate forward and stood watching his own empty hand as the woman took it and started weaving her way out of the throng towards a distant table. He would have recognized that voice anywhere. And the ‘none of that carrot stuff’, too. It was her! Elisa had stepped back into his life, if only for the receiving of a plate of hot food. But she had not recognized him. The beard, he thought to himself, it was because he had grown a full beard. It would have to come off, and quickly, too, he did not want Elisa to walk back out on the streets without even having seen his face.
Jasper excused himself and rushed out of the canteen. A moment later he was standing in the steam of the shower-room, shaving foam and a new disposable blade in his hand. “There it goes,” he said out loud to himself as he scraped the razor over his cheeks and then the chin. “Get it all off! Now…” He took a long look in the dim metal mirror and wiped his face dry with a towel. There he was. The old Jasper was back. She would remember him now.
He returned to the canteen just as the sliding doors were closing behind her large red coat. “Elisa! Elisa! Wait!” In a moment he was out the door after her and grabbed hold of her shoulders, remembering to fully extend his arms and slightly duck as she turned around. He knew well her sharp left hook, and from the way she looked he imagined she might have had reason to practice it lately.
“It’s me, Elisa, it’s Jasper.”
“Goddammit-me-muffin, so it is!” Elisa burst out laughing. “Now, what have you done to your face, you’ve got cuts all over it!”
“Oh, I shaved, I shaved for you Elisa.” He laughed too, suddenly feeling shy, but she seemed to appreciate seeing him so he threw his arms wide and shouted out load: “Come here girl, hey, give old Jasper a hug!”
“Oh you daft old bugger,” Elisa spat at him. “Those days are gone. “I’ not hugging no one. Walk up the road with me,” she added.
Jasper felt his spirits soar. The warmth of the soup- kitchen and now this, seeing Elisa again! It all felt like coming home.
“Hey, here’s a song,” he suggested, as they started walking side by side along the road:
“Thought I’d never see you again
. Elisa continued:
Thought the golden liquid was my only friend
They both burst into a raucous laughter. It was just like the old days.
High above a window slammed open against the wall and a voice thundered down at them. “Oh will you shut the f*** up, you crazy old hoboes! Take your cat’s meowing somewhere else or I’ll call out the pigs, you flee-bags. Now shuh!”
Both Jasper and Elisa looked up in amazement. Then they both started jumping up and down shouting: “Petite! It’s Petite! It’s our girl! Hey, it’s us! It‘s us Petite!”
Japer could not believe it, all three of them together again at last! Suddenly he felt this was surely the happiest day of his life!
5.0 out of 5 stars Highly recommended first novel 21 Sep 2014
I enjoyed this so much and it is beautifully written. The charachters are fascinating and I found myself impatient to pick it up every time I had a chance. The descriptions of life in Norway and the intricacies of the relationships intrigued me. I am sure Marianne’s abundant talent will be “discovered” and I look forward to her next book!
Growing up in the sophisticated Capital City of Norway, that shares it’s latitude with Alaska, Greenland and Siberia, Othilie Risen would have felt a close bond with nature as her every day choices of clothing and activities were profoundly affected by the changing seasons. Although the warm Golfstream sweeping along Norway’s long western coastline is somewhat counteracting and mellowing what would otherwise be a bitterly cold climate, Liv Risen would not have let her daughter out in the winter without ‘stil-longs’ under her trousers, – that is leggings made from genuine fine wool – and knitted mittens and a hat would also have been obligatory.
As midwinter approached, before daylight dawned Otti had already had two lessons at school and as long as temperatures stayed above minus 10 degrees Celsius the children had to play outside during breaks, – so the stil-longs came in handy. After 3.00 pm Otti walked back home again watching the sun set, the Norwegian day lasting only a measly 6 hours.
In early spring or on a clear autumn evening, after having a hot meal of seasonal whale-beef and boiled potatoes for tea at 5, Otti went out again in the dark to take riding lessons on the hills around the city, and this is when she might have seen – as she moved with the horse through the clear cold darkness – the spectacular northern lights flare across the wide open skies.
With the arrival of midwinter the ski-tracks around the city beckoned after school and Otti put her skies on and glided into the woods beyond the suburbs, exploring a crisscrossing network of tracks, her paths lit up with bright white snow and some even with electric lights, as she was taking her evening ski-stroll.
Finally, having endured the long cold winter, summer came with the longing to expose as much skin as possible to the warming sun and Otti played outside well into the light evenings while her parents were hesitating to go inside, too, eating and drinking on balconies in gardens and lingering in pavement cafes. On an especially lovely day the family escaped on the ferries to go swimming and pick-nicking on the islands around the fjords. When the sun finally set on such a lovely summers day, it was barely an hour until midnight. The sun would be up again before 4.00am.
It was on such a summer night that Fred and Otti finally got married:
Inside their suite he felt her tumbling against him, but he gave her a quick squeeze and let her go, taking his jacket off meticulously and looking around the room for the champagne he had ordered. It was on the table by the window. Outside, the city was wide awake partying the Saturday night away. Nights in midsummer never quite fell dark; after hanging suspended in half-light for a few hours, the sun wistfully gave up on its descent and started on its climb into day once more, growing pink and bright as it rose in the small hours.
Freddy drew the curtains tightly to keep the light out. It was finally happening, he thought. From now on, he would be making love to Otti. There was no turning back.
He popped the cork off the champagne and poured them both a glass, doing his best to keep her entertained while she drank. Filling their glasses up once more, he loosened his bow-tie and hung it on the hook by the door. There was no other way than to turn the lights off. He did so much want to see her; his head had been filled with images of her nakedness for a long time, both before and after the revelations in the sewing room. But he was not ready yet to let her see him. It was not his body he was worried about because he knew it was strong and athletic. He just could not reveal to her his need of comfort, of the security he hoped she would give him. He feared his eyes would run full of longing for what he had been missing his whole life.
Otti’s Escape by Marianne Wagner, ebook out July 18th
Authonomy is a website where writers can post their manuscripts for other writers to read and comment on them.
Here are some of the comments given to Otti’s Escape from its airing on the site:
Poignantly observed relationships, transcending time. The post-war atmosphere in Oslo captured in fine nuances. Othilie, subduing her spirit to protect a vulnerability under the cool veneer of the mother, is a fascinating character… ‘she seemed able to harness all of that nervous energy into one decisive move whenever she chose to…it exited Fred, and unsettled him’; the scene in the sewing-room is wonderfully surreal.
Intense doesn’t describe this work. A definite must read for all those looking for a story that grips and doesn’t let go.
I found myself engrossed in the story after the first chapter, and was compelled to read on. As the story progresses Otti’s struggle becomes clearer and her final choices towards finding her own kind of happiness and breaking with the past brings the story to an exciting conclusion.
Benjamin Dancer wrote:
I’m fascinated by the story. The little details, the signal-knock, injects a tension into this scene. The innocence- the running- added intrigue and complexity. This is a subtle narrative, leaving the reader to piece things together. Lastly the contrast: The setting: Icy cold, the fear juxtaposed with love. What a scene!
Patrick Barrett wrote:
Intense and atmospheric with a world of promised intrigue. Very hard to put down.
Colin Normanshaw wrote:
Very atmospheric and engagingly written.