Book: Lars Saabye Christensen 'The Half Brother', Telegraph, Independent

The Telegraph 2 February, The Independent 6 February 2004

27/04/2004 ::


This is a big, fat, consoling sort of paperback that will sit by your bedside for more than a month. Set in Oslo, with a densely woven plot that stretches back to the closing day of the Second World War, The Half Brother is filled with colourful, only semi-plausible characters, each growing up with some freakish problem that sets them at odds with the rest of the world. The narrator, Barnum, is a midget, alcoholic screenplay writer with Tourette's syndrome. His half-brother Fred, the result of his mother being raped by a nine-fingered man, goes mute after he is implicated in the death of his great-grandmother. Fred is roused to speak again only when he hears Barnum play a Cliff Richard record once too often. After that, he vanishes for 27 years in search of some lost letters written by his great-grandfather. The Half Brother is a magnificent novel: tragic, funny, engaging, and written with immense brio.

Toby Clements for The Telegraph

A total knockout of a novel from Norway. Christensen's Nordic prize-winning family epic about semi-siblings in post-war Oslo - a boxer and a scriptwriter - meshes pathos, humour, tragedy and social history with a punch that leaves the likes of Jonathan Franzen on the canvas. The two kids, Fred and Barnum, children of war and trauma, grow up dividing the worlds of body and brain, action and reflection, between them. They need to fuse, not fight, as does their entire culture. The high-octane narrative sparkles like sunlit snow in Kenneth Steven's pacy, muscular translation.

Boyd Tonkin for The Independent

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