Man Booker International Short List 2017: Mirror, Shoulder, Signal by Dorthe Nors
Although we’re not doing a formal panel for the International Man Booker, Book Worm is reading the shortlist and reviewing each of the books. She’ll make her prediction right before the winner is announced. Keep reading to find out what she thought of the first book on her list: Mirror, Shoulder, Signal by Dorthe Nors.
This ARC was provided by Pushkin Press (via NetGalley) in exchange for an honest review.
Synopsis from Goodreads: A spikily funny, startlingly perceptive and beautifully written novel about modern life by the brightest light in Danish fiction
Sonja’s over forty, and she’s trying to move in the right direction. She’s learning to drive. She’s joined a meditation group. And she’s attempting to reconnect with her sister.
But Sonja would rather eat cake than meditate.
Her driving instructor won’t let her change gear.
And her sister won’t return her calls.
Sonja’s mind keeps wandering back to the dramatic landscapes of her childhood – the singing whooper swans, the endless sky, and getting lost barefoot in the rye fields – but how can she return to a place that she no longer recognizes? And how can she escape the alienating streets of Copenhagen?
Mirror, Shoulder, Signal is a poignant, sharp-witted tale of one woman’s journey in search of herself when there’s no one to ask for directions.
Book Worm’s Thoughts: I have kept to the same rating system that we used for the Man Booker Prize 2016. I am just bearing in mind that the books are translated works rather than the original edition. Here is how I rated this first book:
Writing quality: 5/5
Character development: 4/4
Plot development: 3/4
Overall enjoyment: 2/2
I have given this full marks for writing quality as the writing is beautiful. Nors really manages to capture the differences between the city and the country; from the sights and smells, to the way people behave. Here are two of my favourite quotes:
“It’s hard to find clothes to fit the body you have, and it’s hard to find words to fit the people you love.”
“A short time later the sky lashes out, and a vast exchange commences between the earth and the sky.”
Originality and plot development only get half marks from me, while character development gets full marks. This is not a plot driven book since very little actually happens. Instead, this is an in-depth character study of Sonja as she struggles with finding herself and her place in the world. We spend the entire book inside Sonja’s head so it’s a good thing that she is a likeable and relatable human being. I especially enjoyed the flashbacks to her childhood in the countryside and how life proceeded at a slower, simpler pace. I was also amused by the fact that Sonja is a translator working on translating the books of a Swedish thriller writer into Danish. For her, translating is more than simply transcribing the words as she is also editing the books for continuity.
Overall enjoyment gets full marks. It is one of those books that I love without being able to explain exactly why I love it or what I love. This is a short book but it manages to pack a lot in without the reader feeling that anything is being rushed.
Have you read it? What did you think? If you haven’t read it, does it appeal to you?
Want to try it for yourself? You can purchase your copy here: Mirror, Shoulder, Signal