Bookshelf – “The Half Brother”

Book&Lily

Shortly about the author

Lars Saabye Christensen may be one of the many underappreciated Scandinavian writers in modern literature. The rapid rise in popularity of nordic crime novels has pulled a veil on the rest of the ever-so original and intricate texts that norsemen have to offer. When talking about the Scandinavian literature a few names usually come up, such as the good old Stieg Larsson, the crime genius Jo Nesbø (whom I love dearly) or the children author Astrid Lindgren. They deserve the recognition they get, however it is a delinquency to limit such a rich culture of book writing just to a few well-known authors. We need to let the world know SCANDINAVIAN LITERATURE, damn it. As an ardent admirer of Nordic writings I would like to see Christensen and co. to be more recognisable and renowned.

Christensen himself is from Oslo, Norway, the country that is, it might seem, about to depart into the open Norwegian sea, with all its petites coastal tears. He started writing early, and received many prizes and awards for his works, including “The Half Brother”, which is his most rewarded book up to date. He is now 63 years old and that’s pretty much all of my introduction, let’s dive into the book.

The book 

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Cover photo: Chris Frazer Smith

Publisher: Vintage, 2004

“The Half Brother” – “Halvbroren”

The Goodreads rates this book as number 88 on the list of “Best Scandinavian and Nordic Literature”. Well, what can I say, the website is a joke – it is enough to look at the “Best Books Ever” list to already have puking impulses. Number 1, uno, the book to read if you die tomorrow, THE ULTIMATE ONE TEXT YOU WILL EVER NEED…”The Hunger games“. Yes, that’s right, you’ve been doing it wrong you plebs. The second place is… “Harry Potter“. But the fifth place… Are you ready? The fifth most important book in your life, according to Goodreads, is “Twilight“. Not kidding. So, I think it is fair to say we shall not and will not shape our opinion about the book based on this poor rating.

The story is extremely tragic and very touching, an absolute marvellous piece of writing with a genuine concept. It is separated into several parts, where different characters get to share their heart-wrenchig narratives. I think we may agree that finding a book that does not take the reader through a predictable storyline is a happy moment. You stay in suspense until the very end and what is also striking about this book, you do not blatantly wait until the final words reveal all the secrets that you have been so eager to know, it does not have all the beams pointing in direction of the climax →READ ME←. The beauty of this novel is that it is so intriguing, so emotionally rich from the start that the finishing of this book feels like affliction rather than relief.

Amazingly, this awfully sad book was the book I laughed the most at. I was twelve years old when my mum had given it to me. One time she came in to say good night and I was just reading the part that has given me the hardest laughing fit of my entire life. I was in absolute hysterics trying to tell my mama what exactly was so funny. She just sat on my bed for ten minutes until I calmed down. And the weird thing is – I do not know if Christensen has intended to make that exact part ridiculously funny. It was just so out of context but at the same time it was the main narrative too, the part did belong with what had preceded it, and after I have finished laughing and p*ssing myself I thought that it was the most out of place laugh I have ever had and it felt great and sad.

There is a Norwegian mini TV-series based on the book, however, from looking at the trailer I was not inspired to watch it, and it does not seem to grasp the importance and calamities of each character, only focusing on a few. Also, my general rule is not to watch the screen adaptation before reading the book. The movie may be disastrous (as they are) and discourage you from reading.

If you have read this book I would love to hear your opinion about it, if not – yes I do recommend.

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