Summary and book reviews of I Refuse by Per Petterson

I Refuse

by Per Petterson

I Refuse by Per Petterson X
I Refuse by Per Petterson
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  • First Published:
    Apr 2015, 224 pages
    Paperback:
    May 2016, 288 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Darcie R.J. Abbene

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Book Summary

I Refuse is a powerful, unforgettable novel from an internationally acclaimed novelist at the height of his powers.

Per Petterson's hotly anticipated new novel, I Refuse, is the work of an internationally acclaimed novelist at the height of his powers. In Norway the book has been a huge bestseller, and rights have already been sold into sixteen countries. In his signature spare style, Petterson weaves a tale of two men whose accidental meeting one morning recalls their boyhood thirty-five years ago. Back then, Tommy was separated from his sisters after he stood up to their abusive father. Jim was by Tommy's side through it all. But one winter night, a chance event on a frozen lake forever changed the balance of their friendship. Now Jim fishes alone on a bridge as Tommy drives by in a new Mercedes, and it's clear their fortunes have reversed. Over the course of the day, the life of each man will be irrevocably altered. I Refuse is a powerful, unforgettable novel, and its publication is an event to be celebrated.

JIM • TOMMY • 1970

Jim and Tommy came down the path between the trees towards Lake Aurtjern. The ice shone in the moonlight. They were up to their ankles in snow. Their ice hockey skates dangled on their chests with the laces tied around their necks. They were both wearing caps, Jim's long hair was tucked under the edge, and they looked unfamiliar, different, even to each other, but although Tommy was taller than Jim they looked more like each other with their caps on than they did without, although they weren't aware of it themselves.

The moon was mirrored on the ice, and the ice looked as solid as it was. It was a night of blue ice, minus ten degrees, and the moon lit up parts of the rocky hill behind the lake and drew dark lines down where the ravines ran from the top to the far bank. A fir tree leaned over the lake casting crooked shadows across the ice. There wasn't a cloud in the sky. Everything was still. They stopped for a moment in the snow by the ...

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Reviews

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

I Refuse is written in an style that is both simplistic and dense – long sentences strung together with endless ands, but the images evoked are simple ones that deepen the reader’s sense of the mood of the story and its players. (The stark, mostly winter Norwegian setting adds to the cold and isolated atmosphere of the book.) Overall, it is a sad mood, but one that elucidates some of the complex feelings people can have about friends and family. The depiction of the human condition sets this book squarely on the list of books to read.   (Reviewed by Darcie R.J. Abbene).

Full Review (843 words).

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Media Reviews

Booklist
Petterson evokes the frigid Norwegian cold and his characters' corresponding melancholy in clean prose, conveying how the absence of emotion offers no protection from life's vicissitudes.

Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. Set against a stark landscape, this is a brilliant, meditative story about how one small, impulsive act can have an irrevocable impact upon one's life, as well as a rippling effect upon the lives of others.

Kirkus Reviews
Starred Review. Without pyrotechnics, Petterson brings his characters and working-class Norway vividly, even passionately, to life; days after they finish the novel, readers may still have dreams of ice cracking.

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Beyond the Book

The Norwegian Seamen's Church

Norwegian Seamen's Church of SingaporeAt several points in Per Petterson's I Refuse, two different characters find themselves feeling lonely while in Singapore. One character says she begins to feel a "certain weariness inside, a reluctance to speak English and nothing else for a long time to come" and decides to head to the Norwegian Seamen's Church, which is not simply a church in Singapore, but one of several religious outposts which serve as a reminder of home and offer community for Scandinavian travelers.

Norwegian Church Abroad, or Sjømannskirken, is a religious organization that is affiliated with the Lutheran Church of Norway, but maintains its own independent status. The organization serves 900,000 Norwegians abroad, in 106 churches in more than 80...

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