In the High Peaks

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Head over Heels reading Norwegian Night by Derek Miller

I do hope that I allow myself the time to be immersed in Norwegian Night this weekend. I started it early last week, and I've had one interruption after another that has interfered with my absorption. I've had books to read for the Children's Lit class I'm teaching now, articles of criticism to digest, and then the research reading for my book project.

But I'll tell you, Norwegian Night is a special book. I so appreciate the acutely drawn characterizations of Sheldon, the protagonist in his eighties who has been diagnosed as being in the early stages of dementia, and Rhea, his granddaughter, particularly. I feel completely at home with them and have embraced all the assorted themes that are running through the novel. Norwegian Night has depth and believable characters who suffer and carry on, and that's what I'm enjoying so much about it.

I desperately need the down time to finish this book because I had a terribly big "special" birthday on Monday, and I'm groaning under the weight of years. Okay, if you must know, my mother was watching the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II when her water broke. I was born 7 hours later. (I always wondered how my mother's story could be accurate when the coronation took place on June 2 and I was born on June 3.) Last week I learned that the televised broadcasts in the U.S. were delayed a full day. I'm so glad to have that discrepancy cleared up because I've been puzzled by it for decades! It was the biography Elizabeth the Queen by the American writer Sally Bedell Smith that set me straight. As for the book itself, it's entirely too laudatory a bio, yet I enjoyed learning what I did. Smith had a vast access to Royal archives, which an objective biographer probably would not have been given. Will it be possible someday to have a fully balanced biography of the Queen? Perhaps. I hope so.


  1. The book sounds interesting and I love the story of the delay of the Queen's coronation broadcast. I have been through this "milestone" birthday and no doubt you'll find this next generation to be even more liberating. I enjoy your blog having only found it recently. cheers

    1. Pam,
      Thanks so much for responding! I do indeed hope that I find the 60s to be liberating. I loved being in my 50s, and I hope that won't change too much.

      Best wishes!

  2. Ah! You've given your age away. I'm looking forward to reading the Miller book. I've heard a lot of good things about it.

  3. Hi Sarah,
    Yes I have. 60 is a time to take even bolder steps. I thought I was bold at 50, but I'm outrageous now.

    I'm still enjoying the Miller book, though I had to take an interruption to reread A Wrinkle in Time. I'm so looking forward to NOT having my books be interrupted. Starting June 27, actually, but officially July 1st.

    I'll be looking forward to your appraisal of Norwegian by Night. I don't think it's a book that will be a universal favorite. It's got some really rough stuff in it that I don't think that society has fully absorbed about the Bosnian War. So I'll be eager to see if you think it has merit as a crime novel. I'm not sure it does. It may overlap into other genres??? I'm not sure.

    Happy Midsummer's Eve Reading! (Our birds sing all night long around the solstice.) Please, pass the ear plugs!



  4. I loved this book! I grew up with Eastern European Jewish immigrant relatives in New York City, and I adored them and their biting wit.

    I laughed so hard in the first 27 pages of Sheldon Horowitz's recanting of his life, especially his Study of Unwilling Subjects. I almost fell on the floor from laughing so hard. How I wished my parents could have read this book.

    However, after that section, then going into two wars, much of the book was sad. I cried as Sheldon relived his traumas and losses. Yet, as he goes on the lam to protect a child, his hope and wit still comes through.

    I don't know if this book will be widely read but all reviews I've read at crime fiction readers' blogs have been laudatory -- highly.

  5. Oh, Kathy!
    I appreciate so much your sharing your background and your experience with reading Norwegian Night. Sheldon is a beloved character, to be sure!

    But, you know, the going just lately has been slow for me due to the end of the Summer Session at the college. My vacation is around the corner. I can't wait to finish Norwegian Night in proper style!

    Parts of the novel are very sad, as you pointed out, but doesn't it make one appreciate the characters and the writing all the more?

    Thanks for commenting!

  6. A belated happy 60th, Judith! I hope you have a great and outrageous year.
    That was a very quick delivery time, your mom was lucky.

    1. Ah! Outrageous--that would be fun. And yes, I think the years have made me bolder.

      As for the quick delivery, I was my mom's third baby, and according to her, each birth came more quickly than the one before.

      My younger brother's day of birth was also special. At around 3:30am that day in November 1957, she awoke and realized she would soon give birth. But before being shooed off to the hospital, at 4:30 am she took us all out to the backyard to watch Sputnik fly overhead. I was a mere four years old, but I'll never forget the excitement of seeing that satellite pass overhead.

      Thanks for the birthday wishes!