In Oslo in 1942, Jewish courier Ester is betrayed, narrowly
avoiding arrest by the Gestapo. In great haste, she escapes to Sweden whilst the rest of her family 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, Ester’s childhood best friend. A relationship develops between them, but 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 Turid. 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 characterisation and clever
plotting, The Courier sees one of Norway’s most critically acclaimed authors at his best, as he takes on one of the most horrifying periods of modern history. With its sophisticated
storytelling and elegant prose, this stunning and compelling
wartime thriller is reminiscent of the writing of John Le Carré and William Boyd.
The Courier was published by Orenda Books on 21st March 2019. You can purchase it from Orenda, Waterstones and Amazon.
I really didn't know anything about Norway's involvement in the Second World War or the persecution of Norwegian Jews, so this book was fascinating. Whilst it is fiction, it has clearly been well researched.
The story opens and closes in 2015, but the main part jumps between 1942 and 1967, and primarily features the same three characters - Ester, Gerhard and Sverre. I liked the switches between the two different times, as we meet these people twenty-five years apart, and I read the book pretty much in one sitting.
Ester was a fantastic character. A young woman who obviously believes passionately in doing what is right, and is active in the Resistance, putting herself in danger. She sees her father arrested and their house taken by the Germans, and is already apart from the rest of her family. Shortly afterwards, she herself is almost caught but manages to escape to Sweden, with no news of her family. This obviously has a profound effect on her, but she continues to work with the Resistance. She is strong, passionate and determined, and easy for the reader to like.
Gerhard and Sverre were different. I was never entirely sure about either of them - my thoughts changed as the story progressed. But all three characters, and the supporting cast are all exquisitely drawn - the characterisation is superb.
This brings me on to the scene setting. I was a little thrown initially when the story was written in the present tense, but soon got used to it. Dahl writes incredibly descriptive scenes, often using short staccato sentences to include the smallest details. The result is a rich, character driven text, and it felt like I was there, watching - I could picture everything and everyone in my mind. It's screaming out to be made into a film.
The Courier was not my normal kind of read - it's a historical slow burner. But it's so beautifully written, well paced with wonderful characters and with an ending I didn't see coming. I'm so pleased I took the opportunity to read it, and look forward to reading more by this 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.