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  • Location: Åsgårdstrand, Borre

The Strawberry Girl

Why a Booktrail?

1893: Ever wondered what inspired the Munch painting The Scream?

  • ISBN: 978-1784740580
  • Genre: Fiction, Historical

What you need to know before your trail

It’s summer and in the Norwegian fishing village of Åsgårdstrand local girl Johanne Lien dutifully gathers berries for tourists and poses barefoot for painters as ‘The Strawberry Girl’.

She becomes a maid for the wealthy Ihlen family, whose wayward daughter Tullik recruits her as a go-between in her pursuit of the controversial painter Edvard Munch. Before long, Johanne is drawn into the raw emotion of Munch’s art and his secret liaison with Tullik. He paints pictures which he gifts to her and which now she must hide.

When she is asked to become even more involved, Johanne must decide just who and what is at stake…

Travel Guide

Åsgårdstrand and Munch

The story of how Munch painted and in particular how he came to paint perhaps his most famous painting The Scream is set in the village where the painter lived and worked and is based on a true story.

Munchs House

Close to Fjugstadt forest, “Munch’s House was adjacent the path and spanned a steep hill with the house at the top and the path at the bottom. The fruit trees and bushes on the other side of the fence beckoned me with outstretched arms”

This is the house which draws Johanne to it, whilst looking for strawberries, she wanders closer and closer to the house looking for strawberries. It’s then she meets Munch himself:

“He was wearing a dark jacket that hung from him as though he might have inherited it from a n older brother. A grey waistcoat held him in place” she finds his pictures so compelling that those which are propped up like “bathers reclining in the sun” she can’t help but look at.

Author’s Åsgårdstrand

The author took her inspiration from a book called “Lykkehuset: Edward Munch og Astra” in which Gloersen devotes a fwe pages to the story of a young girl called Regine who lived in Borre and had a summer romance with Munch. There is uncertainty surrounding the authenticity is true or not but Munch did have an affair with Milly Ihlen, the daughter of an admiral. He is said to have had an affair with the other sister as well.

The novel is set in 1893 as this was the year Munch painted the first version of The Scream. Other paintings in the story have been given earlier dates to fit in with the story such as Mermaid (1896). The members of the Ihlen family are all real.

Streetview Maps

A) Åsgårdstrand - Munchs Hus
C) Borre Church

Booktrailer Review


A ver poetic and lyrical novel. Each chapter is titled with a colour, words from the book of colours by Johann von Goethe which Munch gives to Johanne in the novel and which casts a colouful hue over what is to follow. The story of the painting Scream is like sitting on a sunlounger, in the sunshine, eating strawberries and looking at an artist splah colours and pastel strokes on to an empty canvas. It’s very relaxing, full of unexpected tones and when you fisnish and stand back, you see a lot more to what you did when watching it closely.

It’s evocative and rich in texture – very like a Munch painting itself. I found the language almost hypnotic and artistic. Each word added meaning and a new layer. Munch was fascinating from the beginning and I was intrigued to find out who he was and what others thought of him back then. When his paintings were deemed to be dangerous, when he was seen to be the outsider no one would speak to.

Johanne appeared like a painting to me – a floating dreamy girl who was caught up in a scandal. She wanted to paint, she saw a side of Munch no one else did – this was her story despite Tullik being the object of his affection.

I really enjoyed this novel and became fascinated with looking at the paintings of Munch again. It’s a very clever way of retelling and adding to the story of the mysterious painting and the man behind it and it was a colourful, evocative delight which was bright, artistic and a tapestry of interesting locations and history.

Booktrail Boarding Pass: The Strawberry Girl

Author/Guide: Lisa Stromme Destination: Åsgårdstrand, Borre  Departure Time: 1893

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