Mirror, Shoulder, Signal – Dorthe Nors

(Tr. Misha Hoesktra)

“How do you hide from people who make themselves angry just to feel alive? They’re everywhere, and it’s tricky making yourself invisible in a world that’s flat as a pancake.”

A slow burner which I came to enjoy more as it progressed, Mirror, Shoulder, Signal tells the story Sonja and her somewhat slow life in Denmark, a life I would like to lead and scarily probably already do. I didn’t like the novel as much as I’d anticipated however Dorthe Nors has me intrigued. I want to read more of her work.

I found Sonja to be a humorous and somewhat soothing character and eerily relatable. She reminded me a bit of Miranda Hart: the chess player a ‘modern man’ grabbing the runaway stroller whilst still keeping his grip on Sonja. I actually snorted out loud. It’s basically a scene from Miranda. Yes, I am Sonja, and she is my spirit animal. I ride a bicycle and do not drive, have not ever had a driving lessons and now I don’t know why. I often call myself a nostalgic dreamer because that’s what I am. I don’t live in the past per se but good gosh I adore it and find myself in the middle of childhood reveries when I should be elsewhere, or so society says.

The scene where Sonja is terrified of a confrontation with Jytte? Yep, me again. In fact, a day before reading this scene I had a situation of my own. A vehicle with owners I long to avoid for at least the next ten years was right in my path. Luckily the owners weren’t in sight, but I have never unlocked a bicycle so fast. Adrenaline kicked in and my large size 42 pedaled as fast as they could go.

“Something in the situation makes her seize up completely that she splits in two. She’s someone who knows that the right thing would be to act like a grown-up, but she’s also someone who would not for all the tea in China want to be confronted by her own treachery.”

On the flipside? I  also see myself in the character of Jytte. Talking away like nobody’s business. It makes me feel safe. I want people to know things about me so I don’t feel I have to constantly explain my quirks, yep, I’m a revealer.

However, as much as I came to enjoy Sonja, I’m not sure why this has been shortlisted. It just doesn’t read man-bookery (new adjective) at least to me. (Have you read it?? Did it read MB’y to you?) I also didn’t much understand the paragraphs about Gösta. Am I missing something here? Yet, the ending, those last few pages had me tearing right up.

“It’s the small margins that decide the outcome, and there’s got to be struggle if your life’s going to grow, and your life should grow, thinks Sonja, though ideally not inward.”

Nors’ text is crisp and precise; her clarity a rye field of calm. If you don’t like slow burners, that classic ‘what-did-I-just-read-nothing-happened’ then steer well left of this one, (ha! driving pun). 3.5 stars and if you are Dorthe Nors fan, please do tell me which one to pick up next.

For now,

Do Svidaniya chickens xx

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