Lionel Shriver

Why Does She Turn Him into a Mackerel?

Before You Sleep

By

Picador 291pp £12.99 order from our bookshop

In many respects, Norwegian Linn Ullmann’s Before You Sleep is standard-issue: three Generations of Strong Scandinavian Women. Two sisters emigrate to America in the 1930s, where they both vie for fellow Norwegian Rikard Blom, whose star-struck infatuation with New York City is painfully familiar. One sister marries Rikard, by whom she has two daughters. When Rikard dies after the War, the sisters return to Oslo, bickering over his ashes for the whole voyage back. One of the daughters, Anni, grows up to become both striking and ‘not quite right in the head’ – or so we are incessantly told, even if Anni never seems to do anything especially nutty. Anni has two daughters as well: the hapless, depressive Julie, whose husband cheats on her; and the spunky, aggressive narrator Karin, who is single and sleeps around.

Sign Up to our newsletter

Receive free articles, highlights from the archive, news, details of prizes, and much more.

Follow Literary Review on Twitter

  • Last Tweets

    • 'Ideas that I’d thought were set down in full continue to smoulder ... this book is only a snapshot of some larger… ,
    • 'Full of invention which, at its most pedestrian, is eminently Victorian, and at its most unrestrained wildly imagi… ,
    • 'What in other hands could have been a dry, pedantic account of Christianity’s birth and evolution becomes in Holla… ,
    • RT : One of my favourite literary magazines is celebrating 40 years this year. Here is the September edition of… ,
    • 'Now that the Thames is too fast-flowing to freeze, its spirit’s devotees ... have found other climes for their pri… ,
    • 'Bythell glowers past his till at a world in slow free fall.' on the travails of a second-hand book… ,
    • 'It is a scent of animal wrath, of instinctive need, of brutal life which affects the cultured nostrils of our civi… ,