Today it’s time to head back to Mandie who, as part of our Year of Orenda, is sharing her thoughts on The Courier by Kjell Ola Dahl. Mandie is a huge fan of historical fiction and I knew when I read this book it would be right up her street. If you’d like to know my thoughts, you can read them here. Here’s what the book is all about:
About the Book
In 1942, Jewish courier Ester is betrayed, narrowly avoiding arrest by the Gestapo. In a great haste, she escapes to Sweden, saving herself. Her family in Oslo, however, is deported to Auschwitz. In Stockholm, Ester meets the resistance hero, Gerhard Falkum, who has left his little daughter and fled both the Germans and allegations that he murdered his wife, Åse, who helped Ester get to Sweden. Their burgeoning relationship ends abruptly when Falkum dies in a fire.
And yet, twenty-five years later, Falkum shows up in Oslo. He wants to reconnect with his daughter. But where has he been, and what is the real reason for his return? Ester stumbles across information that forces her to look closely at her past, and to revisit her war-time training to stay alive…
Written with Dahl’s trademark characterization and elegant plotting, The Courier sees the hugely respected godfather of Nordic Noir at his best, as he takes on one of the most horrific periods of modern history, in an exceptional, shocking thriller.
The Courier is one of those books that has actually left me lost for words so this may end up being the shortest review ever. This historical thriller is set over 3 different times telling the story of a group of Norwegian Jews, how they had to survive and the fallout from their actions years later. The premise of this story appealed to me as I am a complete history nerd and any book that can get me immersed in actual events from the past while telling a completely compelling story is guaranteed to get me hooked.
The story starts with a woman recognising a bracelet that used to belong to her mother being offered for sale by auction. From here we are transported back to Norway during WWII where we meet Ester who is the “courier” and part of the resistance. When she is betrayed, she must flee Norway to Sweden with the help of her friend Åse. When she arrives in Sweden, she meets up with Åse’s partner Gerhard who has also had to flee Norway after being accused of her murder. The events that follow haunt their lives even after the war.
This book is so much more that a thriller as it highlights a truly horrific time in history and makes you think about the plight of all Jews during this time. The characters have a depth and quality to them that even if you can’t warm to them you do have to feel some sympathy to what they had to do to survive each day…even if it meant betraying each other. The majority of the story is told between 1942 & 1967 and the two timelines help you slowly piece together the events that reveal what happened to Åse and the real link to 2015 and the bracelet.
While the book may not be fast paced it has the ability to grab you right from the start, opening your eyes to a part of history that many will not be aware of, myself included. Dahl has expertly merged events from the past with a great wartime spy thriller and for me this is truly one of my favourite books.
About the Author
One of the fathers of the Nordic Noir genre, Kjell Ola Dahl was born in 1958 in Gjøvik. He made his debut in 1993, and has since published eleven novels, the most prominent of which is a series of police procedurals cum psychological thrillers featuring investigators Gunnarstranda and Frølich. In 2000 he won the Riverton Prize for The Last Fix and he won both the prestigious Brage and Riverton Prizes for The Courier in 2015. His work has been published in 14 countries, and he lives in Oslo.
Author Links: Twitter
Books by Kjell Ola Dahl