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The Half Brother [Paperback]

Lars Saabye Christensen , Kenneth Steven
3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)

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Book Description

1 Jan 2003
Winner of the Nordic Prize 2002, The Half Brother has already sold more than 150,000 copies in Norway alone and is set to become an international sensation within the year. This literary marvel tells the story of an ordinary Norwegian family in the 1960s, set apart by extraordinary family members, and of two half-brothers leading very different and separate lives, until they are brought together again at their mother's deathbed... "At Frankfurt, Arcadia trounced rivals with a pre-emptive bid for World English rights to The Half-Brother" - Bookseller

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Product details

  • Paperback: 688 pages
  • Publisher: Arcadia Books (1 Jan 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1900850745
  • ISBN-13: 978-1900850742
  • Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 5.6 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,873,865 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


"Compulsively readable prose... A deeply felt, intricately worked and intellectually searching work of absolutely international importance" (Guardian)

"The Half Brother is like Paul Auster's The Book of Illusions meeting Jonathan Franzen's The Corrections" (Independent)

"An ambitious, panoramic novel-It moves effortlessly from surreal comedy to touching scenes of domestic intimacy... A big rewarding read" (Gerard Woodward Telegraph)

"Powerful, dramatic and magical" (Daily Mail)

"Exhilarating...delivered with clarity, energy and imaginative force" (New Statesman) --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

Book Description

'Bruising and brilliant. This is a great river of a book. Magnificent... Unique' Independent (2003-05-13) --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
20 of 21 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "How little does it take to save a person?" 19 May 2004
One of the biggest, most ambitiously conceived, and richly imagined novels ever, The Half-Brother has already won the Nordic Council Literature Prize, and it has been nominated for the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize. A haunting story of four generations of a strange Norwegian family, each member of which is "different" in some respect, this is as complete a family saga as you will find. Every character is fully delineated, and all his/her relationships and relevant past history are brought to life here, filtered through the mind of Barnum Nilsen, the son of a circus worker and grifter. Barnum's unusual but ultimately close relationship with his brother Fred, the product of his mother's rape by a soldier, is at the heart of the novel, with Fred being huge, active, and very physical while Barnum is unusually small, more passive, and cerebral. Two halves of the same coin, neither brother is very successful alone.
Four generations of the family live together, and some "absent" characters, who have affected the lives of family members, "live on" through objects that they have left behind with the family. Barnum and Fred often seek a connection to the past by reading the last letter their great-grandfather sent from Greenland before he vanished. Vera's best friend Rakel leaves Vera with a treasured ring, just before she is taken during the Nazi occupation of Norway. Barnum buys a ring for his first girlfriend, and it has meaning for him even when he is middle-aged. "We do not disappear without a trace," Barnum learns. "We leave a wake that never quite disappears, a gash in time."
As this immense story unfolds, the reader finds the action harking backward, forward, and in upon itself, with silence, disappearances, and deaths pervading the action.
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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A story of life as we all live it! 15 Feb 2003
The Half Brother is a great novel telling the story of a Norwegian family living in the capitol, the city of Oslo. The story begins during the celebration of peace after world war II when a woman gets raped on the attic of the old apartment building she lives in. The celebration turns to grief but the result, a son, is welcomed by the loving family. Later on the same woman marries another man and she gets another son. The two are half brothers, and the book tells of their the family's relationship with eachother. It takes you through pain, anger, distress but also wonderful moments of joy. It is hard to describe what the book is really about, but I guess it tells a story of a group of people that might seem to live a pointless life in a pointless world. But what Lars Saabye Christensen wants to tell us is that no matter how dark it gets, life is a wonderful gift and it is worth living. Even if you have many dark moments in your life and few bright ones, in the end it is all worth it. The few bright ones makes it so. This book is such an amazing experience to read that you are going to want to read it again and again. And we can all recognize all the bizarre and funny moments the family experiences because we go through it all ourselves in our own lives. The Half Brother makes you look at life in a new, different and refreshing way and appreciate all that you've got. But at the same time it lets you know that if you have very little that is ok as well. Whatever you've got, appreciate it!
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderfully warm novel that will make it big! 4 Feb 2003
By Kris
Follow a quite normal, but extraordinary and colourful 1960s family from Oslo, Norway throughout four generations. In the centre of the dramatic story is the oldest of two half brothes Fred, who was conceived during a rape during the liberation celebrations after the second world war and his younger brother Barnum. The story follows the two through their distinctly different childhoods in the 60s and 70s, where Barnum is the artistic soul who more often than not will fail in his ventures and Fred who is the distinctly silent type who often has to save his younger brother. The book describes their every day lives as well as the mystery of Fred's father in a vivid and wonderful manner, with warmth, humor, drama and tragedy packed into the pages.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars well worth reading 7 Oct 2008
By Jiminy
Yes its long - is this a crime? - but it is most affecting. The relationship between the two brothers and their friends is fabulously well drawn - there are hand-to-mouth moments and laugh out loud moments, and these are the more effective because of the slow burn generally. I was sorry it finished, and will certainly be trying more LSC.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Life in Norway after the war 16 Sep 2009
By Eileen Shaw TOP 1000 REVIEWER
This was quite slow-going - though much of it is enjoyable and engaging. The half brother of the title is an enigma - a rough boy, one of those who easily gets into trouble. His brother is the main narrator and we see the half brother through everyone's eyes but his own. The story concerns their childhood and young adulthood in a Norway which has just emerged from World War II - a world full of hope and joy but full of menace and confusion too.

The novel opens before the birth of either boy, as a young and beautiful girl goes up to the drying attics of the building in which she lives with her mother, to hang out the family washing. The brutality of what happens next sets the scene for the tragedy of her life and the lives of her two children.

As childhood is left behind the novel seems to thicken a little and some of what happens seems to take place in slow-motion. If the novel had been edited with more stringency it would have been a more enjoyable read. However, it is certainly worth while, at least until towards the end when it seems to lose all impetus and peters out into inconsequentiality.

We are given a rich and nuanced picture of life in Norway after the War - and the novel is full of very well-sustained characters, particularly the women (mother, grandmother, daughter). The half brother is a constant, brooding presence in the life of the narrator, but the women are by far the strongest characters.
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