Archives for Norwegian fiction

Book review: I Refuse

This is the story of the friendship and un-friendship of two Norwegian men, their boyhood and manhood, told retrospectively as they meet by chance in 2006 on a bridge in early morning after many years apart. This subtle book is the first I have read by Per Petterson. Jim and Tommy are school friends, living in a small town outside Oslo. Both have difficult home lives. Jim lives with his single mother, a staunch Christian. Tommy’s mother disappears one night into the snow and as the eldest he copes with a violent father and three younger siblings. The two boys unite, until at 18 they are friends no more… At that moment on the bridge, when the two men recognize each other, I wondered what had happened to separate them for 35 years. We learn the stories of their childhood and the hours before that meeting on the bridge, through their own flashbacks plus the voices of Tommy’s sister Siri, their mother Tya and his guardian Jonsen. Small incidents, unintended actions, everyday words, throwaway insults – the stuff of everyday life – all combine to affect the two boys in ways that last with them through adulthood. Things are said and
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