I’m sorry. I just couldn’t resist. Not only does Austin demonstrate one of my favourite scenes of the book, his facial expression is similar to what mine was for half of Kunt Hamsun’s 1894 novel Pan. The story of ex-lieutenant Thomas Glahn adjusting to a life in the Norwegian woods delves into the hardship of being human. Hamsun explores the peril of love and the human psyche as Thomas ends up in a love web. Of course, the romance isn’t anywhere as interesting as the internal conflict that is present throughout the book.
Thomas’s encounter with romance was actually better than I expected. His first relationship with the stubborn Edvarda seemed plausible most of the time, if you exclude the fact that it occurred almost instantly. They had the mushy honeymoon phase, but it quickly became more complex. Thomas becomes jealous of Edvarda’s friendships and Edvarda doesn’t always tolerate his mistakes, such as throwing her shoe into the water. I just loved their relationship.
When Thomas develops a romance with another woman, Eva, Edvarda ends the relationship. Thomas discovers that Eva had been lying to her as well. She is in fact married. This was one point that bothered me. You would expect there to be conflict between Thomas and Eva’s husband, but he is hardly mentioned. Instead, Eva and Thomas have to deal with Edvarda’s father. Maybe Eva was in an open marriage, and I have no issue with that. I just have an issue with the fact that it was completely glanced over.
More drama occurs, and it ends on a note that leaves me pleased and curious. There are several questions that are unanswered, but I have read that several of Hamsun’s stories are set in the same universe and are connected. This book does make me want to read the other ones. If they’re not fully explained, I suppose I’d be a little disappointed.
Throughout the storyline I just introduced, Thomas’s mental health problems make the story more interesting. He doesn’t like people, yet he’s described as charismatic throughout it. At least three people fall in love with him because of this. He over thinks a lot of things, yet he also does things without thinking. As soon as he threw Edvarda’s shoe into the water, he regrets it. The same thing happens as he complains about Edvarda to Eva. His emotions change quickly without an explanation. The years as a lieutenant might have made him this way, and leads to him hating the uniform. Thomas can also be seen as bipolar. This would also explain a few of his actions throughout the book, especially within the last chapter.
I’m sorry, but the last chapter has to be the best chapter of the whole book. Even though the title gives away the ending, I was just in love with everything about it. Don’t worry, I won’t give away too much… except for the fact that I loved it. Yes, there are unanswered questions, but that makes me want to read his other stories.
I also have to quickly praise Hamsun on his poetic language. The dialogue has the 19th century slightly pretentious tone to it, but his description of scenery was lovely. It wasn’t done as a travel guide, but he incorporated the scenery in a way that made me feel like I was there. I actually really want to go to Norway because of this book. It sounds beautiful.
However, there was an issue with this book being written by someone from Norway… and the fact that I’m unilingual. I had to read a translated version, so I’m not sure whom my criticisms for mistakes should be aimed at. There was once instance where a ‘to’ had been forgotten. I might do this from time to time, but I’m an amateur blogger with no other editor. My mistakes are more forgivable.
Not only that, but there were some instances where the tenses shifted from present to past. While it makes sense with some scenes, there are others where the same event uses different tenses. Thomas ‘says’ something and the person he was conversing with ‘replied’. It was just a little off-putting at times.
Despite the minor faults, I would give Pan 7.8/10. There was beautiful description and interesting characters. It definitely didn’t go the way I expected to, which gives it an extra point. As it is a short book, I would recommend it.