Reviews of “In the Age of Bombers” by Bjørn Berge

Cover of "In the Age of Bombers"

“A grimly beautiful history of bombers

Bjørn Berge has written a unique book about humanity’s limitless destructive drive.

In the Age of Bombers is a shocking book about humanity’s limitless destructive drive. It follows the development of bombers from the infancy of flight to the advent of the massive monsters that have crushed countless dreams and reduced entire worlds to rubble in our own times. Although a depressing topic, it is handled with a singular irony that presents the material in a kind of absurd yet poetic theatre of cruelty.

B-52 airfield
Author Bjørn Berge is an architect by training and lives in Lista, on the western coast of Norway. His roots are in the flat region towards the North Sea, where his father was commander-in-chief of the anti-aircraft artillery at an airfield for American B-52 bombers.

Berge’s personal fascination with the huge, roaring, mighty aircraft and the stories behind their construction is filtered through the lens of a mature man’s aversion for and melancholy resignation over the destruction and suffering these aircraft have caused.
This lends the text a particular musicality, in which neither naïve enthusiasm nor moral indignation overshadow the details of the material, nor the principal conclusion: that as a tactic of warfare, bombing has almost always been a failure.

Time and again over the century-long history of air warfare, military strategists have won support for the notion that the best way to win wars was to carpet-bomb civilian targets.
The idea was that this kind of bombing would crush the morale of the enemy population, causing them to turn on their leaders and lose the will to fight.

But almost exactly the opposite has almost always happened – a feeble consolation for the victims. People naturally directed their rage at those doing the bombing.

Bombing raids
In 2016, Bjørn Berge published a thoroughly idiosyncratic book about parts of the world we don’t usually think about, at least not in any systematic way. Nowherelands was structured around a collection of stamps from countries that existed only for a short period. This peculiar editing principle enabled the author to work in copious information about history, politics, colonialism – and our general, human struggle.

This year’s book adopts an equivalent editing principle. After providing a stylish presentation of each bomber, complete with elegant diagrams, dates, numbers, crew, top speed, range and bomb load, he spices things up with plentiful information.

He writes about legendary bomb raids, about formations and dogfights, about iron plates on seats to prevent the crew from being shot to pieces from below, about narrow crawl spaces and the lack of onboard toilets.

The bomber crews worked gruelling shifts and many lost their lives: “The expected survival time for British bomber crews in 1944 was six weeks. The rear gunners came out worst of all, dying after an average of four missions – roughly calculated as one or two weeks, give or take – depending on the weather.”

The Wetsuit Mystery
The book is dedicated to “Shadi Omar Kataf, post mortem”. Right at the end of the book, we learn that this is ‘the man in the wetsuit’ – whose mysterious remains were found washed ashore at Lista in January 2015, a story that became an award-winning article in Dagbladet.

The ‘older architect’ who found him was, in fact, Bjørn Berge, and when in the last chapter he tells us Kataf’s story and how it affected him – the way all victims of war and persecution should affect us – the book takes a melancholic turn that raises it to the level of genuine poetry.[…]

The book is beautiful, grim, thought provoking and good, and undoubtedly deserves a life outside Norway too.”

Jon Rognlien, Dagbladet

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“Fantastic writing about men, bombers and history. Add to that an author with a pen of gold, and you have this year’s biggest reading treat.”

Ole Jacob Hoel, Adresseavisen

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An elegant history of warplanes from 1914 to the present day, with a chapter dedicated to each aircraft. Berge’s book doesn’t simply deliver facts about the individual bombers – it is, above all, a cracking good read. A treat both for aircraft aficionados and literary connoisseurs.

Siss Vik, NRK 1

Reviews for “The Goalie and the Sea”

Cover of "The Goalie and the Sea"

“A Resounding reunion with the friends from Waffle Hearts

Strong feelings, great drama and a real way with words
This book is one that I feel like reading aloud, chapter by chapter, to everybody around me. It has an exciting plot, drama between the characters, and humour in almost every line.

After her two previous books – Waffle Hearts (Vaffelhjarte) in 2005 and Astrid the Unstoppable (Tonje Glimmerdal) in 2009 – Maria Parr (36) from Sunnmøre, on the west coast of Norway, was proclaimed the shining new talent in Norwegian children’s literature. Then nothing was heard for a while, and it is easy to imagine that ideas were tried and rejected amidst a fear of failure. So it is a real pleasure to report that Parr is back and is surpassing herself, offering us more of what we have grown to love, while at the same time expanding the world of the children she writes about.

Surpassing herself
We are back in the small hamlet of Mathildewick Cove, a ferry journey away from a town that could be Ålesund.

Trille and Lena were nine years old in Waffle Hearts. Now they are twelve, Trille is still the first-person narrator, and we follow them through a year at school. Their world is larger, and the events that happen are more serious.

In one plot thread, we find out more about when Trille’s grandfather was a young man, and how he fell in love with Trille’s grandmother; in another, we see Lena’s new football coach giving her so few opportunities on the pitch that she decides to move to a team in town instead.

Friendship triangle
The new girl in the class, Brigitte from the Netherlands, also causes some commotion. Trille would like to be with her, but he is also ashamed of neglecting Lena and his grandfather. And he is really astonished that Brigitte can see any good in the class bully, Kai-Tommy.

Along the way, there is time for broken arms, fishing trips, secrets, airgun accidents, a school concert, and an Astrid Lindgren reference when Trille’s little sister is hoisted up the flagpole.

Birth, love, and the sea
If there is anything to pick holes in from this book, it might be the penchant for melodrama. The main characters are in mortal danger on the waves two or three times, and Trille’s baby sister is born during a heavy winter storm. Still, this is also probably the book’s greatest strength. The drama is well integrated and realistic, and the reader can feel the grave seriousness of the situations.

Lena emerges as an even more ambiguous character. At her worst, she is self-centered, short-tempered, and sulky. At her best, she has a heart of gold (XL size). It is easy to see how the calmer Trille can feel frustrated and confused.

Best in practically all aspects
The Goalie and the Sea fulfils most criteria of literary criticism. The language is rich and varied. The composition, ensemble of characters, and dramatic structure work well. Parr dares to take all the corners at full speed with even more sincerity, more drama and, not least, even more fantastic new words and expressions. […]

I enjoyed most of all how Parr lets her characters and readers think, learn, and grow as a result of everything they go through. We see honest children struggling with big questions, and coming out of it all with greater self-awareness and greater respect for other people.

This book is full of wisdom, beauty and emotion, and it is quite likely that Maria Parr will see in the new year with several more literary prizes on her mantelpiece.”

(Reviewed by Morten Olsen Haugen, Aftenposten 13 August 2017)

“The sequel to Waffle Hearts: binge-reading!
The sequel to Waffle Hearts does not disappoint. Maria Parr’s writing is lively and humorous, creating a safe universe it feels good to inhabit. […] Your heart also beats more calmly and happily when you read Maria Parr’s books. …This novel uses language inventively and is filled with funny alliterations and playful comparisons. … Lena Lid and Trille deserve many readers and many books. Through her writing, Maria Parr conjures up wild and beautiful western Norwegian scenery and appealing characters we would like to follow in book after book. “

(Reviewed by Kristine Isaksen, VG)

“Speed and self-confidence
Maria Parr has proven again that she is in a class of her own as a children’s author. This charm bomb of a story will bring out laughter and tears in children and adults alike. … It is an exciting story, and the first time you read it, you will at times find yourself on the edge of your seat, hoping that everything will turn out well. Maria Parr is not afraid of writing about difficult topics, such as death: can it happen at any time? This grown-up reviewer shed several tears while reading – tears of sympathy and recognition – which were soon replaced by smiles and laughter.    …   Maybe it is here, more than anywhere, that Maria Parr’s magic lies: not in her use of language, even though that is terrifically good, or in the story, which is also unbearably exciting, but in all the layers she works into it, in the way she surveys the depths of what makes up life. Fun, excitement and humour, but also serious matters, insecurities and sorrow. Life and death. Maria Parr writes about children, but her books are really about all of us.

The Goalie and the Sea is a brilliant book for children, and is perfect for grown-ups too.”

(Reviewed by Gerd Elin Stava in Dagsavisen, 16 August 2017)