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)
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.
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.
Prof of Global Health & Development - wide interests, fiction & non-, politics, justice & rights, culture & food, travel, art & creativity
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.
Wonderful story that combines well elements of character, story and historical events.
The story follows an old Jewish American man who recently moved to Norway and his subsequent involvement with "evil".
I enjoyed the flashbacks, the grumpy but lucid and eloquent voice of the old man as well as the fast moving plot. In fact, once I started reading this, I could do little else until I had heard the whole book!
It was time well spent!
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.
I see all the awards and 5 star reviews, but I really don't get it. The writing is often clever and sometimes humourous, but the plot is just a bit of a mess.
The whole premise for an old man setting off with a little boy leaving only a cryptic note is very thin, and the 'chase' through the Norwegian countryside is lacking any real suspense. And there are far too many plot points when you wonder why someone would act in that way - not that it's 'far-fetched', just mundanely stupid. A couple of examples:
A police inspector returns to the 'sealed' crime scene and finds the door to the apartment ajar. Suspecting an intruder she calls for back-up and, instead of alerting the 2 officers on guard in the street outside, enters the apartment alone. Rather than doing a thorough search for the intruder, she starts looking for more evidence and gets hit over the head by the intruder.
And why does the thug who assaulted the police inspector and escapes with the pink box everyone has been looking for, stop at a cafe up the street for a cup of latte only to be captured by the police follow-up squad?
Also there are too many flashbacks at inappropriate times. In the climactic scene (spoiler alert) as our 82 year old hero comes through the door to confront a murderous armed gang (he is armed only with a knife) he notices it is 2:20pm and flashes back to some other past experience that occurred at 2:20pm.
I thought Miller develops some interesting characters but the plot is just too weak to maintain any momentum.
The narrator does a nice job but the material is just not that good.
But this is just my opinion. Lots of smarter people than I have thoroughly enjoyed it.
I live in a big house by the Baltic sea in Gävle, Sweden. I am married and have three teenagers and one dog. I read books, buy books and blog about books. If I don´t read I knit, sew or quilt.
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.
Hungry for kowledge!
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.
I enjoyed this book, particularly the Norwegian setting. The characters were sketched fairly well although not all of them were really three-dimensional.
"Don't Miss This Amazing Book"
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!
"Dreaded finishing this book…"
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.
"So Sorry this Book had to End!"
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.
"Exceptional writing and story"
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.
This was one of the most original, engaging and entertaining stories I've listened to.
I have over 300 books in my library so I've heard a wide range of stories. This is one of my top 20. I wanted to listen again as soon as it was done.
Well worth the time and credit/money.
"Enjoyed getting to know this guy"
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.
"A great hero, an even better story..."
I listen or read or to two or three novels a week, so finding true gems has become much harder to find. Norwegian By Night is not only a gem, it is destined to be a classic. The narrative is eloquent and humorous, with great depth of character.
Many thanks to Janice in Sugar Land for turning me on to this book. I always read the synopsis as well as many of your reviews. The most common superlative in the reviews was about the main character, an 82 year old American lost in Norway.
Sheldon Horowitz is one of best characters I've ever encountered in literature. He is brave, resourceful, brilliant, witty and clever. And thanks to Sean Mangan's remarkable writing, Sheldon's story is as believable as it is riveting.
"An old man's last hurrah"
This book is a rare bird, with a protagonist who's an old man on an adventure. Sheldon Horowitz is an octogenarian who's moved from New York City to Norway, brought there by his daughter, whom he and his wife raised after their son died in Viet Nam, and his Norwegian son-in-law. Sheldon is as cranky an old widower as you'd expect for someone living with past regrets and transplanted to another country where he doesn't speak the language. But underneath his irascible and pedantic exterior, he's a mensch. Which is why, when the Croatian neighbors next door have another one of their screaming domestic disputes, Sheldon lets the woman and her child hide out in his apartment. Unfortunately, the Croatian father, who turns out to be a war criminal pursuing his son, follows. Sheldon ends up fleeing with the boy, leading both the police and a gang of Eastern European mobsters on a chase through the backwoods of Norway.
The story will appeal to anyone who likes the idea of an 82-year-old action hero outwitting cops and terrorists and even making a final stand in the climax. The book is interspersed with a lot of interior monologues, from many points of view - mostly Sheldon's, but also his granddaughter's, the cop who is in charge of finding him before the bad guys do, and the bad guys themselves.
War, and the aftermath of war, is a major theme running through the book. The bad guys are still living out the effects of the Serbo-Croatian war and its atrocities. Sheldon missed out on World War II, but fought in Korea, and convinced his son to join the Army and fight in Viet Nam. The consequences of that haunted him for the rest of his and his late wife's life. He always claimed he was only a clerk in the Marines, but in fact, it turns out he was a sniper. Or was he? In Sheldon's rambling speeches, it's sometimes left open to doubt whether he's all there and how much of his memories are invented, especially when he talks to the ghosts of old friends.
The plot was interesting and there was a diverse cast of characters all thrown together in this unlikely chain of events. I did feel the ending was rather predictable, and I got a bit tired of Sheldon's cranky-old-Jew shtick, but this was a solid book that's a bit off the path of my usual reading.
"An extraordinary novel"
Totally engrossing. Really fine character development with philosophical insights and a plot that keep one riveted. Well above average. The narrator is totally adequate even if he isn't as expert as some in suggesting foreign accents. He's good enough.
"Did I Get The Right Book"
Ok, it's my failing, no doubt, that I didn't get more out of this book. So many people have loved it that you can take my three star rating with a grain of salt. I just didn't get it, from the title - what did that mean? - to the motivations of the central characters to the genre. Yes, even the genre - was it a thriller or a story about a man looking back on his life or a black comedy or...it had elements of all of those things but it didn't really deliver on any of them.
The hero is Sheldon Horowitz, aged 82, who, after losing his wife, has moved from New York to Norway to live with his granddaughter and her Norwegian husband. Sheldon fought in Korea in his youth and always kept the details of what happened there a secret from his family, to the extent that when he talks about it now, they assume that he must have dementia. When a neighbour is savagely murdered, Sheldon takes her child and goes on the run, to protect the child. This decision hinges on some assumptions that it seems unlikely anyone would actually make and it weakens what follows. Sheldon and the child evade the police all over Norway while the killer moves in on his family, determined to track the boy down. At the same time, being with the boy causes Sheldon to revisit and re-examine many aspects of his relationship with his own son.
I did really like parts of this book, particularly the loving depictions of Norway and the occasional flashes of humour. However it was let down for me by the fact that none of the characters were fleshed out - and some of them had the potential to be terrific characters. I hope the author revisits Sigrid the police chief and that we get to find out more about her. Sheldon was also a great character - there is a lovely scene when he puts his granddaughter in her place about his dementia - but the way that the story kept chopping and changing between his past and his present and the police and the granddaughter and the villains meant that we kept losing focus on him. Also the ending, when it comes, is really rushed. We never fully understand the villain's motivations and hello? what about Lars please?
Sean Mangan was good with the delivery of the story and the only reason I finished the book.
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