Malcolm Forbes

Child in Time

Boyhood Island – My Struggle: 3


Harvill Secker 480pp £12.99 order from our bookshop

Early in Boyhood Island, Karl Ove Knausgaard’s mother gets lost and rues her sense of direction while praising her young son: ‘My memory’s not as good as yours, you know.’ However, in the book’s opening pages, Knausgaard informs the reader that his memory of his first six years is ‘virtually non-existent’. Boyhood Island, the third instalment in Knausgaard’s critically acclaimed Min Kamp (‘My Struggle’) cycle, covers the first 13 years of his life. His caveat about the reliability of his recollecting seems superfluous – who can accurately recall their first six years? If anything, Knausgaard’s proviso is there to strengthen his claim that these books are not memoirs but novels (though ‘fictionalised autobiographies’ could be closer to the mark). The young Karl Ove is indeed equipped with a good memory, but what counts is the way Knausgaard the writer has rebuilt his formative years with abundant and compelling creative licence.

Sign Up to our newsletter

Receive free articles, highlights from the archive, news, details of prizes, and much more.

Follow Literary Review on Twitter

  • Last Tweets

    • Why did the 'bold and determined' Empress Matilda never manage to become Queen regnant? Peter Marshall reviews a n… ,
    • From the Archive: Martyn Bedford on Ian McEwan's 'Atonement' ,
    • In 'Silenced Voices' reports the ongoing story of the human rights lawyer, Nasrin Sotoudeh, who has been… ,
    • The mystery of Jack the Ripper's identity has long been agonised over. But what do we know about his victims?… ,
    • A piece of Literary Review history from way back in 1983: John Haffenden talks to the great Iris Murdoch. ,
    • Britain’s only travelling lit fest, the Garden Museum Literary Festival is heading to Houghton Hall, Norfolk, for a… ,
    • 'The 19th-century German sage is not my idea of a pleasant travel companion' goes hiking with Friedr… ,