‘The first time I met you I never saw you.’
Port Angelsund is a foggy northern city, the gateway to the high arctic. It’s a contemporary city which has been under occupation for some years by the soldiers of Garrison. Port Angelsund is strategically significant because of its lucrative reserves of energy. The citizens of Port Angelsund are under constant surveillance: their existences full of petty rules and hardships, of curfews, restrictions on movement and rationing.
Nineteen-year-old Sylvie Falk attracts attention at a routine checkpoint, and is bound and blindfolded. She is rescued by a young lieutenant and allowed to travel home. Sylvie, her brother Toby and her mother work at the Half Moon Café where Sylvie is an accomplished pastry chef.
Sylvie’s rescuer, Lieutenant Will Maur, visits the Half Moon Café. And, despite the risks of collaboration, Sylvie falls in love.
What follows is an extreme test of Sylvie’s loyalties. Her older brother Jory is part of the resistance against Garrison. Jory wants Sylvie’s help. Sylvie loves Will, but is acutely aware of the hardships being inflicted on her family and friends. Sylvie is being watched constantly, both by Garrison’s city-wide surveillance and by her lover. Whatever choice she makes will result in betrayal. How will it end?
While Sylvie is the central character in the novel, there are other significant characters. Their lives provide insight into life in Port Angelsund. It is Sylvie’s story, narrated in her voice, but it provides a much broader look at conflict, love, loyalty and the consequences of war.
I started reading this novel a few weeks ago, and had to put it aside because of other commitments. I picked it up again, went back to the beginning and finished it in two days. Perhaps the most disturbing aspect of this novel is the fact that the world described could so easily be the one in which we live.