Book Review: Mirror, Shoulder, Signal by Dorthe Nors


Shortlisted for the Man Booker International Prize 2017 Mirror, Shoulder, Signal is Dorthe Nors’ fifth novel.  Translated from the Danish, this story follows a forty year old woman attempting to take control of her life

Nors’ protagonist, Sonja, seems to be reevaluating her life following a break up.  She wants so badly to pass her driving test and to mend broken bridges with her sister, Kate.

Whilst we get an insight into why Sonja has not been able to pass her driving test to date (questionable instructors and a spot of positional vertigo) constant references to her drifting relationship with her sister seem to have no origin.  Sonja attempts to reach out to her sister with letters she never sends ending in a conversation which is just as tense and awkward for the reader to read as it is for Sonja and Kate to be involved in.

What happened between the sisters, Dorthe?  Why did you feel the need not to tell the reader?  For me, as this is one of the most concentrated concerns of Sonja without understanding why distanced me from the character.  I just couldn’t connect with her.  The breakup and circumstances around such were contained to one paragraph and the driving lessons were to me – feeble attempts at creating comedy within the novel than insights into the character…unless I am missing something completely.

It is a shame that we couldn’t get an insight into what happened or is it simply due to Sonja’s character herself?  One for me to ponder over but overall – a surprising shortlisted novel for the Man Booker International Prize.  I look forward to seeing how it stacks up against the rest of the shortlist.

Recommended for: There were some hints of The Driver’s Seat by Muriel Spark in here. If you like Spark you will like this book.

Rating: 2/5

Favourite quotes: “A vast exchange commences between the earth and sky.  A barrel organ grinds and one-armed bandits prattle away in tongues electronic…The trees behind the rollercoaster glow angrily in the last rays of the sun, and then here comes the lightning.”

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