As I’m very late to the party reading this beautiful book I don’t need to say much more than that. I’m sure you’ve all read at least a half-dozen glowing reviews of it (and if you haven’t, check out Norman’s which is my favourite) and I doubt there’s anything new or interesting I can add to the discussion so I shall just muse.
My first thought is how annoyed I am at the hype machine that publishing has turned into. I am repulsed by hype. I don’t mean sickened (though sometimes…) but rather the put off/driven away meaning of the word. If a book is being read by and gushed about by everyone then I don’t want any part of it. Mostly because books – even good ones – can rarely live up to the expectations set by such ubiquitous adoration but also because even if a book is that good there’s a reasonable chance I won’t like it. I am often out of kilter with the popular zeitgeist (I threw GONE GIRL at the wall for example). My aversion to hype meant I didn’t read this book for ages and nearly didn’t bother at all.
My second thought is borrowed from my favourite radio show/podcast (BBC Radio’s flagship movie review show). There’s a running theme on the show that movies are often not about what they appear to be about on the surface (so Jaws isn’t really about sharks and Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy isn’t really about spying and so on). In the same vein NORWEGIAN BY NIGHT isn’t really about a crime. Or criminals. Instead it is about ageing and masculinity and fatherhood and grief and the heroism of ordinary people and the hidden cost of war. My favourite kind of ‘crime’ novels are the ones that make a mockery of genre labeling and this one positively breaks all the barriers.
My third thought is that whatever else you throw into a book if give me a character who makes me laugh you’ve won a special place in my heart. Although I only met him a couple of weeks ago I can foresee that the novel’s hero, 82 year old Sheldon “Donny” Horowitz, will become one of my all time favourites. He is my idea of a perfect character. That doesn’t mean he’s a perfect person but that’s kind of the point. He’s just an ordinary bloke dealing with the hand life has dealt him with the kind of active practicality that I associate with men of his generation. And he does it with a laconic humour that made me laugh more than enough to offset the occasional tears.
I love everything about this book. The cracking dialogue between Sheldon and the ghost his best friend has become. Its ambiguous ending. Actually its ambiguous middle bits too. Was Sheldon really a wartime sniper? Does it matter? Its lack of predictability. Its humour and warmth. The way it manages to be a novel about the human toll of war without sounding like a zealot’s treatise (I’m so tired of being told what to think). I even love the cover. Of this version anyway. It is so rare these days to see a cover that represents a book at all let alone one that does so perfectly.
I know I haven’t told you about the plot but you don’t need to know more than it’s about a man. Who does his best to save a boy. If you are one of the few people who didn’t read this book when all the hype was being thrust at you then do so now. And if you’re at all fond of audio books then by all means track down the version narrated by Sean Mangan. It’s a treat.
♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦
Narrator Sean Mangan
Publisher Bolinda Audio 
Length 10 hours 36 minutes
Format audio (mp3)
Book Series standalone
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