Tag Archives: norway

Because Venus Crossed An Alpine Violet On The Day That I Was Born by Mona Høvring, trans. Kari Dickson and Rachel Rankin

Do you like challenging, experimental fiction? Do you like less focus on plot and more on meditations, philosophy, and transformation? Pull up a chair, because Because Venus Crossed An Alpine Violet On The Day That I Was Born by Mona Høvring and translated by Kari Dickson and Rachel Rankin is for you. If not, if you prefer more plot-driven novels and less time in exploring thoughts and self, you absolutely will not enjoy this novel. However, as a solid lover of challenging and experimental fiction, Because Venus was exactly for me, and it’s been a while since I enjoyed such a tightly written, magical, and thought-provoking novel. It won the 2018 Norwegian Critics’ Prize for Literature, and so it’s a delight to read it in translation – while I can’t directly compare the original Norwegian text with the English, I can say that Ella, the narrator, has a strong and unique voice, and the language use is honestly delightful. Kari Dickson and Rachel Rankin did a wonderful job in translation.

“…as a solid lover of challenging and experimental fiction, Because Venus was exactly for me, and it’s been a while since I enjoyed such a tightly written, magical, and thought-provoking novel.”

Ella and her sister Martha head to a small Norwegian village in the mountains, to stay in a hotel and let Martha rest after a mental breakdown. While Ella embraces the holiday and carefully observes their temporary surroundings with a sense of wonder and peace, Martha shows little interest in the hotel, the other guests, the hotel workers, or her sister. Ella befriends Ruth, a member of the staff of the hotel, and Dani, Ruth’s lover. Before Ella is able to realize her own attraction to Dani, Martha calls her out on it during breakfast, and after a confused argument, vanishes from the hotel. Given the gift of time and space while waiting for Martha to come back, Ella explores who she is without the responsibility of her sister, learning about her sense of self and her preferences, as well as leaving her room to explore a relationship with Dani.

This is a relatively short novel, clocking in at 142 pages. Høvring, and Dickson and Rankin, did not waste a word, bringing us deep inside Ella’s mind as she goes on this trip to the country. Ella’s thoughts and observations about the hotel and the village are funny and endearing, and we get to watch Ella gain confidence, rethink the path her life has taken so far, and take a few chances. Like I said at the beginning of this review, this is not a book for those who like a plot-driven read, but for those who enjoy a thoughtful study of a character, Because Venus will not disappoint. An excellent novel in translation.


Mona Høvring is the author of six poetry collections and four novels. Her previous novels include the acclaimed Something That Helps (2004), The Waiting Room in the Atlantic (2012), winner of the Unified Language Prize, and Camilla’s Long Nights (2013), nominated for the Nordic Council Literature Prize. Because Venus Crossed an Alpine Violet on the Day that I Was Born won the 2021 Dobloug Prize, the Norwegian Critics Prize for Literature, was a finalist for the Norwegian Booksellers’ Prize, and was included on numerous critics’ Best of 2018 book lists.

  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ Book*hug Press (Oct. 5 2021)
  • Language ‏ : ‎ English
  • Paperback ‏ : ‎ 140 pages
  • ISBN-10 ‏ : ‎ 1771667060
  • ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-1771667067

This article has been Digiproved © 2021 James Fisher
Acknowledgements: Alison Manley
Some Rights Reserved  

Wayfarer: A Memoir by James S. Rockefeller Jr.

Being the son of James S. Rockefeller Sr. the successful Wall Street banker, young James’ childhood was “very privileged. There were no material wants. The food was plain but wholesome. Wealth, as I grew to be aware of it, was not be flaunted, but I didn’t know back then that my family had it.” As you read through the pages of Wayfarer, his memoirs, you definitely get the sense that none of the four children in the house in Connecticut received any special treatment, nor did they believe they were entitled to any. Money was just not an issue like it is for many of us.

The Mandalay, Tahiti

James Jr. (Or “Pebble” as he was nicknamed) was schooled, expected to graduate and eventually take his place in the business world. But it was not to be, despite his father’s best efforts. At an early point, he introduces young James to the inner workings of a textile mill in Rhode Island:

“The manager of the mill was due for retirement shortly after my scheduled release from higher education. No other family member had stepped forward to take his place. My father’s eyes rose expectantly to mine. I failed him by slipping away the following year, selling my interest in the Casey cutter [a boat he and he brother Andrew has peurchased] to buy an old forty-foot Friendship sloop of dubious virtue in Annapolis, which I also christened Mandalay. The plan was as directional as the North Star—namely, to sail around the world. Napping machines and print rollers, preparing cloth for pyjamas and shirts, could not compete with the incense of the Tropics.”

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Margaret Wise Brown

And so the adventure begins. Along the way, he takes us down the east coast to Cumberland Island, a barrier island off the coast of Georgia that generations of Carnegies (his maternal relatives) owned. There, he meets a visitor that becomes the first love of his life, children’s author Margaret Wise Brown. “Like her books, Margaret is eternal and forever loved” Mr. Rockefeller states.

Lest you think Mr. James S. Rockefeller Jr. is sailing the oceans in a crewed yacht while sitting back sipping single malt Scotch, reading Wayfarer will quickly rid you of that notion. The Mandalay was no rich man’s yacht, and James, along with a friend or two were the entire crew. Certainly, the money at his disposal helped to pave over some of the rougher spots, but he was still out on the ocean in a tired, leaky old boat with few, if any luxuries. The amazing part of his memoirs, whether he is in the Tropics, America or Norway is the fascinating people he meets, the relationships formed and, sadly, loves lost.

One wonders if a person could do the same type of trip today: would those isolated islands now be inhabited, with modern technology available? The relative ease that James has in sailing from one port to another, meeting people, getting supplies and spending time as a guest of a resident or two is endlessly engrossing. His writing style is eloquent, yet down-to-earth, with a  talent for making words state a certain feeling or event in his life.

“Keeping a diary or writing letters is alien in this age of email and the cell phone. It was somewhat alien even back when I was young. J don’t know why, but from an early age I wrote letters and jotted down thoughts. There were several close friends to whom I could pour out my heart in writing, saying things I would not say to family and those surrounding me. Letter writing and diary keeping seemed to arrange events and people in better perspective. When we are young, emotion rises easily to the surface, while with age, observations are often wiser but not so vibrantly colored. We grow more guarded, building up barriers against the abrasions of daily living.
Looking back over my letters and diary of the voyage, I see that the incidents, people, and places were like eyelets in a boot. Laced together they became a structure supporting my footsteps along the path to adulthood, from heartbreak to some measure of healing.”

Living vicariously through books like Wayfarer is what makes reading so fun. While it is a personal memoir, it is also a time capsule from an era when the world held great mysteries, and one had to see them for themselves; there was no Google Earth to rely on. Just maps, charts and the stars. I highly recommend Wayfarer to those with an interest in sailing, travel and experiencing exceptional adventures populated with captivating personalities every step of the way.  Gripping, honest and impassioned, this is a memoir writing at its best.

You can read an excerpt from Wayfarer at the Islandport website. It is Chapter Six in the print edition. https://www.islandportpress.com/press/writer-of-songs-and-nonsense.html

Wayfarer: A memoir by James S. Rockefeller Jr.
Islandport Press

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This article has been Digiproved © 2019 James Fisher

Some Rights Reserved  

Original content here is published under these license terms:
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