Mirror, Shoulder, Signal by Dorthe Nors

Translated from the Danish by Misha Hoekstra, read by Kate Rawson

Sonja is the first in her family to have gone to university. She moved from her small rural hometown to the bustle of Copenhagen where she translates popular Swedish crime novels for a living. She has very fond memories of her rural childhood. Her parents sold and moved off the farm Sonja once called home and as a 40 year old, single woman she’s has no sense of where her life is going, no vision of her future.

Sonja has no close friends, and no romantic relationships. Her parents are dead and her sister (who reads the crime novels Sonja translates) avoids her calls. She’s having driving lessons but worries she’ll never learn to drive on her own. Her instructor won’t let her change gears – she cannot “shift” for herself. Sonja’s life is without direction (except in the almost comedic moments when her driving instructor is yelling “turrigh!” and “turleff!”). She also has a hereditary condition, a type of postural vertigo. When her head gets into a particular position, she loses her balance and the world spins around her. Her grip on the wide world seems tenuous at times.

While Sonja has done well for herself, what she doesn’t have is happiness. She’s truly trying, but what her fellow city dwellers deem a fun time doesn’t bring Sonja joy.

In spite of (or maybe because of) Sonja’s ennui her story is deliciously fun. I cringed and I giggled. The metaphors are simple, the characters are amusing and nothing and no one is ever quite as straightforward as they seem.

This novel was on my radar after it was shortlisted for the Man Booker International Prize for Literature in 2017. I loved it. Nors packed a lot in to this quiet, clever book and Sonja is an enchanting character. I think the feelings she experiences in the novel would be familiar to a lot of people – adulthood can feel very hard at times!

Kate Rawson’s rendering is well matched to Misha Hoekstra’s translation. Her performance is nicely paced, clear and her character performances are perfect. The quality is as good as I ever hope for. All in all, this is an excellent audio production.

I’m extremely grateful that Audible Studios picked this one up – it’s an absolute gem. I enjoy reading books from all over the globe, but frequently I’ll look for a book only to find it hasn’t been made into audio (or, it has, but not in English). I’d been looking out for this one and it definitely lived up to my high expectations. I was very excited to read the novel and I’m looking forward to reading it again.

Mirror, Shoulder, Signal • by Dorthe Nors (translated by Misha Hoekstra) • read by Kate Rawson • 5 hours 9 minutes • published by Audible Studios • January 11, 2018

This entry was posted in 2018, 5 stars, review, translation and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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