The mind is Nors’s landscape, and yearning her true subject. Sonja’s is an objectless yearning, deeper than nostalgia. Page after addictive page, Nors pushes Sonja beyond her class betrayal and survivor’s guilt, beyond anger at her mother for encouraging her independence, into and, miraculously, out of a profound dislocation of the soul embodied by her vertigo, which bursts forth in a gorgeous, breathless finale ... This triumphant novel sounds the depths of women’s unseen strength in a register that reconciles enlightened feminism with working-class rage.
Nors at her most unassuming and ambitious ... We’re locked in Sonja’s consciousness, but the novel never becomes claustrophobic. Opening it feels like opening a window — there’s a bracing freshness and chill to the writing, and the unforced ease of a song ... However plain the prose, Nors can’t help but handle words in interesting ways and put them to original uses ... This has always been a favorite move of hers— to yoke together unrelated clauses, to bring together despair and banality ... Nors’s fiction begins at the moment of unmooring — in all its pain and possibility, as these women imagine themselves into being. It’s the foundation, too, of a harsh wit that recalls early Lorrie Moore.
In Mirror, Shoulder, Signal...she mixes both the comic and the melancholic mode found in her earlier work ... Nors skillfully enacts the way most of us think: choppily and with frequent interruptions ... From the reflective to the comic to the portentous in a matter of seconds, Sonja’s thoughts contain worlds ... In the case of the driving scenes in Mirror, it is largely Nors’s light touch that ensures the symbolism goes down easy. In this way, the author distracts from the metaphorical implications of the lessons while still reaping the benefits of that metaphor. In the end, it’s Nors’s willingness to trade in the gently comedic, while still taking Sonja’s larger questing seriously, that makes Mirror, Shoulder, Signal such a complicated, and ultimately successful, balancing act.
Certainly the formal recklessness of Nors’s writing is most apparently effective in the novella – essentially plotless, it is enriched by its own contrivance ... This 200-page lamentation on contemporary loneliness would quickly grate if it were not for the benevolent ingenuity of Nors’s writing. When Sonja’s narrative breaks free of the corner she has boxed herself into, the prose swoops and soars like her yearned-for whooper swans. It’s at these moments that Nors’s reinvention of experimental fiction is so marvellous: the remainder of her backlist should not disappoint.
Reminiscent of Lydia Davis, Nors sifts through large concepts with concise language, wry humor, and a contained plot ... Often meditating on sadness and separateness, Nors writes Sonja’s life with some emotional distance, yet also, at times, with intense affection. And while the story contains overarching symbolism, metaphors, and analogies (driving as a method of escape and independence, vertigo as a lack of life balance, nature as a grounding force), Nors’s hand remains light, and the effects are subtle and elegant.
Nors’ writing has witty and insightful depth ... Nors writes important modern women’s fiction. It is an act of 21st century recovery and assertion: she gives back agency and centrality to older women, sidelined in all societies, even Scandinavian ones, where women are valued less than men, and childless, single women least of all.
...this sly, deadpan Danish novel steers its mischievous comedy of character and manners over a 'viscid underworld of sorrow' ... Misha Hoekstra, the translator, smartly matches Sonja’s erratic course: gawky one moment; graceful the next.
Translated from the Danish by Misha Hoekstra, at times the novel’s word choices get murky, and conjoined clauses can feel like split lanes, two ideas going in different directions. It’s a tiny, if hardly noticeable, distraction. With this quietly moving story, though, Nors seems on the fast track to becoming a global writer ... Although this book feels like a more straightforward departure from Nors’ dark fables and experimental novellas, we’ll be lucky when new translations come in.
Kudos to the translator … I found myself utterly beguiled by shy, sharp, funny [protagonist] Sonja … Finding Dorthe Nors has been good for me as a reader, because I now have her other books to look forward to. If, as we’re told, only 3 percent of the world’s books get translated into English, I’m very glad Nors’s are among them. The gruesome Nordic noir can go forever untranslated as far as I’m concerned, but thoughtful, intelligent novels like this one need to appear in English.
Mirror, Shoulder, Signal is the latest novel by the Danish writer Dorthe Nors, who possesses a rare gift. She treats heavy, dark matters with a very light touch ... With bracing good humor, Nors...celebrate[s] the quiet heroism of women who accept the cost of being themselves.
Mirror, Shoulder, Signal is essentially the narrative of a women refusing to accept that youth is no longer on her side and the ordeal of having to readjust once her dependable comforts are no longer comforts. Nors charts Sonja's progress with a meticulous hand, detailing the heroine's exploits with studied resolve. But the narrative meanders aimlessly. Nothing in Nors' novel ever feels as though it's moving along a steady trajectory of human experience. Rather, the novel seems more a series of joint recollections that don't always connect thematically … Mirror, Shoulder, Signal is, in fact, a series of glimpses of the life of a woman who ponders laboriously over her next steps. Nors provides an informative and careful sort of journalism here that captures the thought patterns of humans in the throes of anxiety. But the narrative is almost always detached and, though affably related, rather cold.
Only a writer as agile and profound as Nors would dare to proceed from such a heavy-handed (and humdrum) premise. The novel’s power builds as Sonja’s inner world unfolds ... 'As women,' she says of herself and her mother in a rare moment of dialogue, 'we’re not completely fine-tuned.' As a novelist, Nors comes remarkably close.
While there’s not much plot, the characters are finely drawn, offering deep insight into human nature, especially if they are marginal. Readers come away with an appreciation for the troubled protagonist, along with a deep respect for skilled writing that exposes frailty coupled with incipient intelligence in the carefully drawn main character ... Nors writes with clarity, insight, warmth, and humor ... Nors leaves readers with at least a sense that whatever comes around the next bend, somehow Sonja will cope. Even her distant sister would likely be relieved by that.
The astute and contemplative latest from Nors ... Not a lot happens this thoughtful novel, but not a lot has to. Nors conjures a gently fraught reality in prose that evokes a life paused halfway between nostalgia for the past and hope for the future.
Nors charts Sonja's progress with a meticulous hand, detailing the heroine's exploits with studied resolve. But the narrative meanders aimlessly. Nothing in Nors' novel ever feels as though it's moving along a steady trajectory of human experience. Rather, the novel seems more a series of joint recollections that don't always connect thematically ... many moments throughout the novel are filled with such circular and wearisome ruminations. It's tedious and stilts any momentum that is achieved when any form of action takes place ... Nors provides an informative and careful sort of journalism here that captures the thought patterns of humans in the throes of anxiety. But the narrative is almost always detached and, though affably related, rather cold.