After a lifetime of being nice, Doppler realises he doesn’t like people that much and sets off to live in the forest by himself, leaving his life, and wife and children, behind. When he becomes desperate for food, he kills an elk. But the elk was a mother and leaves behind a calf. A calf that won’t go away. Doppler reluctantly takes the calf into his tent and soon names him Bongo. After his father, who wasn’t called Bongo but is dead.

I want to share with you what’s written on the back of the proof because it’s one of the best blurbs I’ve read this year (and I bet it won’t see the light of day otherwise).

Hello there.

My name is Bongo.

I live in the woods with a man called Doppler, who stabbed my mother with a hunting knife when I was very young. I am an elk btw. A Norwegian elk.

A writer called Erland has written a whole book about Doppler and me. It’s already sold a squillion copies in Norway, and lots of readers said it was a deeply subversive fable about the consumer society, middle-class angst and that sort of thing.

But I know better.

We are legion, our movement will triumph.


And I guess that sets the tone for the book. Not that it’s written from Bongo’s point of view; that would be silly. He’s an elk and he can’t talk (despite Doppler’s efforts to teach him). The narrative is first person from Doppler’s perspective and it’s not really about Bongo. But I love Bongo! And their odd little relationship out there in the wild before their peace is shattered. I think I’d quite like an elk as a friend but then I’d have to live in the woods without my creature comforts.

There are moments when Doppler’s not a very likeable character; he is making a concerted effort to be selfish but there’s something charming about him. He doesn’t get to shake off his niceness that easily. Doppler goes to extreme lengths to escape the consumerism of his life but there’s a lot that rings true. He is plagued by the incessant and pointless noise of children’s TV shows, his son is practically addicted to them but somewhere along the way, modern life ceases to matter. Life can be good and fun without the mod-cons and sometimes the race to beat the Joneses gets in the way of living.

A charming, lovely, odd and thought-provoking book. It’s the perfect antidote to the madness of Christmas. Not that Doppler is a particularly festive read but it does span over the winter months and there is a Christmas scene of sorts.

Originally written in Norwegian by Erlend Loe, this edition has been translated into English by Don Bartlett (of Nesbo fame) and Don Shaw. Published by Head of Zeus in the UK, the hardback and ebook editions will be available from 1st December 2012. Thanks go to the publisher for providing a copy for review.

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