9 October 2013

Review: NORWEGIAN BY NIGHT, Derek B. Miller

  • published by Scribe Publications Pty Ltd 2012
  • ISBN 978-1-921844-88-1
  • 305 pages
  • source: library book
Synopsis (Scribe Publications, Melbourne)

Sheldon Horowitz — 82 years old, impatient, and unreasonable — is staying with his granddaughter’s family in Norway when he disappears with a stranger’s child. Sheldon is an ex-Marine, and he feels responsible for his son’s death in Vietnam. Recently widowed and bereft, he talks to the ghosts of his past constantly.

To Norway’s cops, Sheldon is just an old man who is coming undone at the end of a long and hard life. But Sheldon is clear in his own mind. He’d heard the boy’s eastern European mother being murdered, and he’s determined to protect the child from the killer and his Balkan gang. With an endearing combination of dexterity and daring, Sheldon manages to elude the police in what is hostile, foreign territory for him. But what he doesn’t know is that the police and the gang both know where he’s heading.

Norwegian by Night is the last adventure of a man coming to terms with the tragedy of his own life as he tries to save another’s. It combines laconic, deadpan humour, moral seriousness, visceral grief, and narrative tension in a remarkable way. An extraordinary debut, featuring a memorable hero.

My Take

Sheldon Horowitz's wife Mabel kept telling him in her last months that he had dementia. He certainly often confuses the past with the present, and sometimes it is hard to work out whether snippets of the past really happened or whether Sheldon just wanted them to happen that way.

His trek through Norway to what he sees as safety with a seven year old whose language he can't speak has a really cinematic quality; by that I mean I think this story would make a great film.

Sheldon lives with a lot of guilt. He couldn't tell Mabel, or anyone else what he did in the Korean War. He told her he had a clerk's job in the Marines, and he hid from her the medals he brought back. Similarly he feels responsible for his son Saul's death in the Vietnam war, believing he goaded him into a second tour of duty.

There's a lot to like about NORWEGIAN BY NIGHT. There's humour, but also some pretty serious assessment of the impact of war on those who fight as well as those left behind.

My rating: 4.6

Other reviews to check

About the author
Derek B. Miller was born and raised in Boston, Massachusetts, and has lived abroad for over fifteen years in Israel, England, Hungary, Switzerland, and Norway. His interest in fiction began a few years after graduating from Sarah Lawrence College.

Currently, Derek is the director of The Policy Lab and a senior fellow with the United Nations Institute for Disarmament Research. He has a PhD in international relations from the University of Geneva, and an MA in national security studies from Georgetown University, in cooperation with St Catherine’s College, University of Oxford. He lives in Oslo with his wife and children.


Irene said...

thanks for a great review.

Peggy Ann said...

It does sound like it would make a great movie! The BBC should do it. They do drama wonderful!

Anonymous said...

I loved this book and Sheldon Horowitz. It's chock full of Jewish humor and tragedy, a hallmark of books about Jewish life.

Historically, there was so much discrimination against the Jewish people, that humor helped to get through the oppression.


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