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Blog > Book Review: Long Live the Post Horn!

Hey everyone! It’s Nicky back again with a new book review. Last time I was talking about Sir Terry Pratchett’s Going Postal, and this time (as promised at the end of the last post) I’m here to talk about Vigdis Hjorth's Long Live the Post Horn! I read it in the English translation by Charlotte Barslund: it’s a Norwegian novel centred around a woman who doesn’t really know what she wants from life or what she’s doing, until she finds a new purpose in protesting against a new EU directive which will change the Norwegian postal service.

Cover of Long Live The Post Horn!

I have to admit, I wasn’t a huge fan of this book. I think that’s mostly just personal taste: the translation is really readable, and it does really well at portraying a kind of dreamlike stream-of-consciousness narrative in which the main character, Ellinor, is drifting through life without doing anything of consequence. She’s not really connected to her job writing copy as a publicity consultant, she’s not really engaged with her relationships with her family or her boyfriend, and she doesn’t really know what the point of it all is. Hjorth manages to make that beautifully believable, to the point where I found it a little depressing to read myself. Once Ellinor’s inspired, her almost feverish activity comes through in the narrative as well.

Ellinor’s life is shaken up by the suicide of a member of her three-person publicity firm. She ends up having to take over one of his projects: the effort to persuade politicians and trade unions to protest against a new directive which will allow other companies to compete with the Norwegian postal service. At first they’re very pessimistic about the idea of getting people fired up about the issue, but a story about a dead letter which the postman finally manages to deliver makes her see the value in the campaign, and she manages to get her co-worker engaged with it as well. The second half(ish) of the book shows Ellinor reconnecting with the people around her as well, including trading confidences with her boyfriend, which led to one of my favourite bits:

“Sometimes when I don’t know what to do, ” he said, “I’ll write myself a letter.”

“Why? To support the Post Office?”

It was his turn to laugh.

“No, ” he said, “but when I express myself as if I’m not me, the words come to me, ” he said, “when I pretend I’m someone else, then I express myself more clearly and I send the letter to myself so I can see what I mean.” he said.

“Couldn’t you just write the letter, put it away and then take it out another time?”

“I’ve tried that, ” he said, “but it’s not the same. I have to do the whole thing, the envelope, the stamp, the post box, and then it really does work.”

Writing letters (and postcards!) is different, somehow, especially when you take the time to put it in an envelope and put a stamp on it—it’s all much more deliberate than sending an email, for instance. I’ve never tried sending myself a proper letter, but I can see how it might work!

I can see this book working really well for a lot of readers; for me, it’s just not entirely my cup of tea. Still, it’s always interesting to try something new, and I was especially interested because I don’t think I’ve read any contemporary Norwegian fiction before.

Cover of Griffin & Sabine

I recently read Nick Bantock’s Griffin & Sabine, and I’m hoping to review the first trilogy for my next post. After that… I’m still hoping to find some non-fiction about mail/postal services. I think Deirdre Mask’s The Address Book is close enough in theme, so a review for that should be coming up soon as well. It’s all about the history of street names and addresses, and what they can tell us about local history and politics, and I really liked it, so I’ll probably write that up soon!

If you have any other suggestions, I’d love to hear them; feel free to leave a comment here, send me a message, or drop a note in the forum thread if anything comes to mind!

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23 comments so far

Nique, Canada
I love reading Book Reviews! Thank you for sharing yours with us:)
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ejeddy, United States of America
What a thoughtful review! I get a real sense of this book and you personalized your opinion in a very informative way. I'm looking forward to the next one.
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EricTheMailman, Canada
Yes.

Thank you for these book reviews.

I am quite sure that many Postcrossers are readers, as am I.

As you say, it is interesting to read books from other countries.

I enjoy these posts.

Eric
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Indreni, United States of America
I love these book review posts! Griffin and Sabine is amazing. A book on the old Pony Express or mail delivery by horse would be cool 😎
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Liudmyla_Kh, Ukraine
Thanks for review the book. And writing a letter to yourself is a great idea :).
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Kewl, Philippines
I wish there is a book about the postal service or related to postal mail in my country.
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cjf3848, United States of America
“The Guernsey Literary and Apple Peel Pie Society” is a WWII novel written entirely as letters exchanged among the characters. I thoroughly enjoyed it.

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/39832183-the-guernsey-literary-and-potato-peel-pie-society
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volvomom, United States of America
Looks like an interesting read! Thank you for the review!
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Byrons_brain, United Kingdom
Have you read Cartes Postales from Greece by Victoria Hisplop, it makes for a wonderful summer read and has beautiful postcard illustrations.
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Olddutch, Spain
I have read The Postcard by Leah Fleming. A story set during WWII.
I also have a book called The Letter by Kathryn Hughes, about someone who finds a sealed and unsent letter in the pocket of a suit in a charity shop. She opens the letter and is intrigued. Then tries to find out more about why the letter was never sent. Beautiful story.
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brijoudu93, France
merci pour cette jolie critique !
la grande lectrice que je suis ne peut qu'adhérer !
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vembx, New Zealand
Thank you for the review - always interested in books to add to my to read list
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Mirfi, Australia
I love the idea of writing yourself a letter!
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Flippie, Canada
Thanks for the review and other info. Eh....writing a letter to myself? a idea!
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Bookhuntress, United States of America
Novels told by a series of letters have their own name--epistolary novels. One of my favorites is a series written by Amy Stewart, and based on a real family--the Kopp sisters. She was inspired by a newspaper clipping from 1914 about a woman in law enforcement--unheard of at the time. The first book is Girl Waits With Gun.
The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society is a great read, as well.
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Violetbluebird, United States of America
Thanks for the review of this book. The topic sounds pretty interesting.
If you ever feel like reading a deep dive, non-fiction book about the history of the Royal Mail, I can recommend Masters of the Post: The Authorized History of the Royal Mail by Duncan Campbell-Smith. I picked it up at a local Waterstones and it's a long read, but fascinating.
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beesknees, United States of America
If I send a card to myself, my postie just puts it back in the box with no postmark - thats not the point postie!
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alison41, South Africa
Enjoying your book reviews.
More, please!
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NIDUSKA, Finland
Thank You
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Walle_yo, Germany
I found Griffin and Sabine on a book fleamarket two years ago. It is absolutely lovely. And now I know, its a trilogy. Thank you so much for the review.
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rjmom, United States of America
If you are into gardening you might like The 3,000 Mile Garden: https://www.amazon.com/000-Mile-Garden-Eccentric-Gardeners/dp/0140254471 It's letters exchanged between a gardener and nature photographer in London and a food writer in New England. He gardens in his city plot and she on her farm.
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rjmom, United States of America
I've just requested Griffin and Sabine and The Address Book from my public library!
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slb1963, Canada
This trilogy is extraordinary. I have had them for since they were first published in the early 1990's. Now I've introduced them to my daughter!
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