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19 of 20 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "How little does it take to save a person?"
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...
Published on 19 May 2004 by Mary Whipple

versus
2.0 out of 5 stars Not worth the hype
There are some true moments of great writing in this saga, but they are too far apart, leaving a rather stodgy, unsatisfying read. I was past caring about all of the characters by the end, with little interest in what happened to any of them. Why it needs to meander through >700 pages is beyond me and this type of writing is done much better by lots of other people,...
Published 5 months ago by Zannie


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19 of 20 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "How little does it take to save a person?", 19 May 2004
By 
Mary Whipple (New England) - See all my reviews
(HALL OF FAME REVIEWER)    (TOP 100 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: The Half Brother (Paperback)
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. Vera and Fred both go silent for months as a result of trauma. The great-grandfather and Vera's father never appear, and Arnold Nilsen, Barnum's father, disappears periodically after his marriage to Vera, as does Fred, the half-brother. Permanent disappearance, i.e., death, occurs to the Old One and a host of other characters, and accidents involving still other characters cast a pall over much of the novel, highlighting the "aloneness" of each person, and the quixotic nature of fate. Still, there is much humor here as the characters keep soldiering on.
This is a huge book, but the pages fly by, despite the fact that the author does not insert much paragraphing. Whole pages continue without any breaks at all, and dialogue is simply imbedded within paragraphs. With hundreds of well-drawn, memorable scenes, dozens of carefully presented characters whose entire lives and history you know completely, surprises buried within seemingly ordinary tales, and the creation of a complete and unique universe, this is a novel which will richly reward the reader who is not intimidated by its size. Mary Whipple
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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A story of life as we all live it!, 15 Feb 2003
This review is from: The Half Brother (Paperback)
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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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderfully warm novel that will make it big!, 4 Feb 2003
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This review is from: The Half Brother (Paperback)
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
This review is from: The Half Brother (Paperback)
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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2.0 out of 5 stars Not worth the hype, 28 Mar 2014
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This review is from: The Half Brother (Paperback)
There are some true moments of great writing in this saga, but they are too far apart, leaving a rather stodgy, unsatisfying read. I was past caring about all of the characters by the end, with little interest in what happened to any of them. Why it needs to meander through >700 pages is beyond me and this type of writing is done much better by lots of other people, e.g, Gerard Woodward, Donna Tartt and Jeffrey Eugenides to name but a few, plus Joyce Carol Oates
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4.0 out of 5 stars Life in Norway after the war, 16 Sep 2009
By 
Eileen Shaw "Kokoschka's_cat" (Leeds, England) - See all my reviews
(TOP 1000 REVIEWER)    (REAL NAME)   
This review is from: The Half Brother (Paperback)
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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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Long but worth a go, 24 Sep 2012
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This review is from: The Half Brother (Paperback)
Read this book on holiday whilst lying in the sun & don't know whether I would have managed it if I was trying to fit it in around ordinary life. It is long but worth persevering I think. There's enough going on to keep you interested and there is plenty of humour dotted about. The ending is a bit disappointing as it's a bit abrupt & leaves several questions unanswered but it held my interest enough through out that I can forgive that!
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5 of 13 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars dark non-progressive book for the sleepless, 18 July 2005
This review is from: The Half Brother (Paperback)
why this book is a classic and an award winner, i don't know. it must be a very controversial award, but then, there are awards for everything nowadays. this book is about dysfunctional families, misfits, lies, death, mutism and "dreaming in minus". the frustrating bit is the time spent on reading it, and expecting for this perfect end which makes it all worth while, or at least some pearls, sentences which you can chew on for some time.. instead, i often didn't like the sentences, i felt many of them were too ambicious and there just to fill up the void. I rather recommend "maskeblomstfamilen" by the same writer, which is also about the same things as half-brother, but will give you many many laughs througout the book.
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3 of 10 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Few gems amidst the tedium, 26 July 2006
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This review is from: The Half Brother (Paperback)
I must admit I found this novel pretty heavy going. Yes, they're an interesting normal disfunctional family, but I found myself nearing the end hoping for the unifying climax that would bring it all together.. and rather it fizzled out. Overall the total is much less than the sum of the >700 pages of parts.
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The Half Brother
The Half Brother by Lars Saabye Christensen (Paperback - 5 Feb 2004)
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