Saturday 11 January 2020

The Half Brother

Finished January 4
The Half Brother by Lars Saabye Christensen, translated by Kenneth Steven

I've been reading this one for a while and finally finished it. It's a long book, and it took me a while to really get into it. The book starts with a prologue, an interaction between the narrator and his older half brother Fred. This shows us a bit of the relationship between the two and where the power lies. The narrator's name is Barnum, and they live in Oslo.
As the main part of the book opens, we are a long ways into the future from the prologue. Barnum is now an adult and is at a festival in Berlin with his friend Peder where they are meeting with film executives. Barnum receives a message from home that causes him to end his visit early.
The novel now moves further into the past, to 1945, when Barnum's moths is busy with chores as she revels in the end of the war, looking to celebrate with her mother Boletta, and grandmother, The Old One, when she is attacked. This part of the book is about these three women in the family, their loves and their losses. It is from this attack that Fred is born.
Barnum's father is from Rost, a northern island off the coast. But he did not fit the life there and he left as soon as he could. It is only with Barnum's baptism that he and his family return there.
As the book follows the lives of Fred, Barnum, and their family, we see the strange relationship between the brothers, the women that wait for things to happen, and the man who is the father to Barnum.
We also see Barnum begin to develop a life of his own, to find friends and a talent and to grow into a man.
This is a book about the characters more than the action. Slow-moving, but I became more and more interested in them all as I read. More than one character retreats into silence at times, and alcohol also plays a role in many ways, as does film. Fascinating read.

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