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 tensions in a remarkable way - and Sheldon, in particular, is about to become a famous fictional hero.
©2012 Derek B. Miller (P)2013 Bolinda Publishing Pty Ltd
"Norwegian by Night ‘may just be the Australian publishing coup of the decade, for this is a very powerful novel indeed, and Sheldon Horowitz is an absolutely unforgettable hero....A novel that will last and, soon enough, will be added to that canon of those finer works that transcend mere genre." (Jonathan Dawson, Sunday Tasmanian)
"To say this is an enigmatic read would be the understatement of the season." (Courier Mail)
So many books--so little time
I want to be very careful with my review so that I don't say too much and ruin the story if you haven't read it yet. This book is so powerful and fascinating in its depth and complexity that it needs to be experienced with an open mind and no preconceived ideas. Just let the story sweep you up and guide you through the labyrinth the author has created. The wry humor made me laugh out loud in several parts. The beautiful writing allows the reader to experience first hand the characters' interior thoughts, perceptions, and frames of reference. It focuses on ideas of war, nationalism, double standards and hind sight. A mediation on memory, meaning and how the things we are taught in life form who we are and dictate our actions. Amazing characters are brought expertly to life.
The narration started out sounding a bit like that announcer from the TV show The Twilight Zone long ago. As the reading progressed it smoothed out and improved. I think overall Sean Morgan did a fantastic job.
To me this was a page turner, a thriller, and a mystery filled with edge of your seat suspense. But much more than all of those things it made me think and it was a fantastic book. Glad I didn't miss this one!
I love to read books set in interesting places or historical settings. I especially love mysteries and thrillers.
After cheering for Sheldon and drying my eyes when this book ended, I gave it a few minutes thought that I might have to update my "All Time Favorite Books" list. Why isn't everyone talking about this book? It was so good, yet different from anything else in the "mystery / thriller" genre.
Within minutes of this book starting, I became very invested in the life of 82 year old Sheldon and later to Paul, his neighbor's 5 year old son, as they are on the run from pure evil. Sheldon recalls his Korean War sniper days and uses that knowledge to out-wit his pursuers and survive. While some of the story is sad as Sheldon looks back over his life, I remember chuckling several times from the great wit that carries through the book. The writing and narration are worthy of the praise from many reviews.
The last 2 hours had me sitting on the edge of my seat, heart pounding. I envy all those just starting on this book. You have a great journey ahead of you. Enjoy.
It took a while to sort out the story, for my ears to recognize and understand the shifts in time and voice. The complexity of the telling is integral to the story. Once my ears became accustomed I was able to follow the scrambled tale of extraordinary events taking place.
I am so glad I hung in there. This is one of the best books to which I've listened. This is an exceptionally gifted author.
Norwegian by Night made me feel that whatever book I read next would disappoint in comparison. This book raised the bar for me and I now do the required research to find other books of this caliber. I guess this book changed my reading (or listening) habits.
I am not old, male, Jewish, or an ex-marine and, yet, I strongly identified with Sheldon. Derek Miller manages to create a common ground between all of his characters and the reader. I particularly enjoyed the policewoman’s character. The book included all the fundamental elements of great storytelling for me; humor, tension, some philosophy, thoughtful characters, and profound moments.
Narration is excellent,
I agree with another reviewer who questioned, “Why isn’t everyone talking about this book?”
Get this book.
Hudson Valley Chick
Not sure what I expected, but an interesting story well read.
I often listen to books to help me sleep. I know it's a strange endorsement, but this made me want to stay awake.
I am not a fan of mysteries and thrillers. But my husband is and so I chose it for us to listen to while driving on vacation. Glad I did. Sheldon is this wonderful, old, grumpy, Greatest Generation guy, a fish out of water in cold, dark, gentile Norway. He is Jewish down to his kishkes, not in a religious, go to synagogue way, but in the wrestling with God, justice shall you pursue way. And when he has his chance to heal a little part of the world (and himself), he grabs it without hesitation. A wonderful, insightful, gripping book.
The dry humor that Sheldon displayed was frequently true laugh out loud material. Of course, humor was but one layer a a rich and multilayered elegiac, serious, and suspenseful novel. The historical, cross-cultural, and integenerational landscapes, the interpersonal and intra-personal tensions were superbly drawn, and the story and its complications were believable. That Sheldon was so believable, to others as suffering dementia but in reality a master of the lucid was another feat of great writing. I loved this book, except the note below.
Spoiler alert. What the heck was with the last two minutes of the book? This was a terrible letdown. It represented none of the literary finesse of the rest of the book. In notes at the end, the author says the idea of the ending just came to him. He should have let the idea of that ending keep going right on by... At the least, the granddaughter learns - by inference only - that Sheldon's Korean sniper experience was not fabricated, but Sheldon going through the entire exercise at the cottage only to end in not one, but two rifle misfires and then to be struck down by Enver - it was not nearly as uplifting as the writer seemed to intend. And to have the child ultimately saved by the relatively minor character of Lars with a crossbow - completely unrelated to the rest of the book - was puzzling. Mostly, it seemed that the great and hazard-filled venture of bringing the child to the cottage, a venture of redemption and vindication for a man who felt that he was a failure, added up to nothing in the end. And Sheldon failed to get Enver, failed to get Mr. Black, and got himself killed.
It is a beautifully written, elegantly humorous, and seriously contemplative book. It was a five star read until the last couple of minutes of the book seriously disappointed me. I understood the author's choice in the ending and, although a bit abrupt, it was certainly a viable ending, but for me it was not a satisfactory ending at all. Perhaps if there had been more closure, an epilogue, something else, I would have been better satisfied. However, a really good book.
Sheldon can be described as; elderly, Jewish, a New Yorker, a Korean war vet and a decent man with early dementia. Lead characters don't get more interesting or complicated than that. This book is worth a listen.
One of year's best,
Author created unforgettable characters in a magnificent story. Highly recommended.
Excellent job by narrator.
Yes!! Very moving: However there were some truly hilarious moments.
I loved this book!
I really enjoyed this well written story, and as an aside learning lots about Norway during the read. I liked not second guessing the plot though it's a straight forward thriller but with flash backs to the Vietnam and Korean wars and Sarajevo. I really enjoyed the old man, whose body and mind are failing him, our tainted hero. The narrative arc from Norway to America, during a chase through Norwegian countryside, is not forced. The characters are well fleshed and I enjoyed the reveals throughout the novel creating even more fully established characterisations. This is not your usual thriller, this has more depth and for a first novel, which I believe it is, it is really rather good.
"You will make excuses to keep listening."
The main character.
The main character, his depth. I loved him.
The ending was a disappointment at first. I was a bit underwhelmed. However, with hindsight I was actually delighted with it. The story took my hand, led me down the garden path and then slammed the gate in my face.
"Captivating on all fronts"
Sheldon Horowitz, a Jewish American veteran of the Korean war, lives a tranquil life in the company of his grand-daughter Rhea and her Norwegian husband, Lars. Quiet Oslo, into which he has been absorbed, distant from his traumatic past. [Every now and again we hear mention of the Literaturhuset - a great place to spend hours poring over books (English and Norwegian), hearing a talk or sharing a coffee if you ever ARE in Oslo].
Sheldon, much loved and ageing, is still traumatised by his own war experience and the loss of his son in the Vietnam war. He is constantly struck by what it means to be a Jew in a country which barely knows his people, and in many ways denied complicity with the Nazi occupation and the extermination of more than a third of the tiny Jewish population of just over 2000 people. Sheldon is difficult, obstinate, good humoured and lovable - not necessarily all at the same time...
Their lives are intersected by another divided and traumatised group - both victims and perpetrators among them - Albanian Kosovars, Serbs and others from former Yugoslavia taken into Norway as refugees. Gender, divided loyalties, crime, prior roles and massacres in an ethnic war, influence their violent interactions.
The third group of actors are the Norwegians themselves, represented by sensible but somewhat boring Lars; Sigrid the police commander succesfully breaking the glass ceiling yet still dependant on her father for advice and her not very able male colleagues; and a bunch of simple-minded and ineffectual recreational hunters.
Sigrid is faced with solving a murder, finding and rescuing a young boy, and interpreting Sheldon's behaviour - noble, at times misplaced, and always programmed by memory, experience, trauma and guilt.
Sheldon is always at the centre of this simultaneously incredible but credible story. A delightful book, full of surprises, wit, and wise asides.
A great story, beautifully told, enthralling and inspiring.
"Gripping story with an unexpected ending"
The story contains so many different elements - crime, religion and cultural background, flashbacks, sadness, love, humour. It is a real "page-turner", or whatever the audio equivalent of that is. It is easy to take sides for or against the various lead characters, and almost live their stories with them.
Sheldon - a man in a foreign country, suspected of losing his mind, not blessed with a great deal of tact, but still determined to see right prevail.
Some of the characters were easy to distinguish, but others were harder to separate either from other characters or the narrator's 'normal' no-character voice. I felt some of the narrative could have done with a more gentle delivery - rather a lot of the narration is spoken in the same rhythm and spacing (and audible breathing) as Sheldon's character.
Many of the moments when Sheldon and the boy are doing illegal or just silly things together, but the first 'wet' moment in the cupboard is especially moving.
The ending seems a bit sudden, and as other reviewers have said, leaves you slightly unsatisfied, but after a while you sort of understand why it finishes like it does. This is a superb book, and as someone with some experience of Norway, I found the places and the people (and their outlook on life) were accurately brought to life through the story. A disturbing listen in places, but well worth it.
"The book is acceptable but the END....."
The end! The book ends with a number of unanswered questions and improbable (if not impossible) events.
No, it is a book that doesn't give anything to the reader/listener. It is not a bad experience to listen to it, but after doing that you ask yourself: what was the point?
It was my first book and probably the last.
It could be a movie because there is some action here and there, as well as a number of interesting flashbacks. But it will not be an Oscar winner. Clint Eastwood could perform as Sheldon.
"Entertaining and Well Constructed"
I enjoyed this book, particularly the Norwegian setting. The characters were sketched fairly well although not all of them were really three-dimensional.
"A special relationship"
Sheldon Horowitz is a wonderful man. Old and frail on the outside but courageous and wise and compassionate inside. His friendship with the little boy and his reflexions on his life and losses are wonderful. This is a very different thriller.
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