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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on January 27, 1999
This is a fantanstic book. Norman tells a story very well; his clean beautiful writing style evokes the northern remote wilderness settlements vividly. In this setting, two young boys become great friends, and their relationship grows as they do. This book reminded me of A Separate Peace, with a Canadian edge and tone. It compelled me to read The Bird Artist -- also terrific.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on April 24, 2003
I picked up this novel in part to see if Norman's wonderfully written novel The Museum Guard was a fluke. I can say emphatically that it was not. The Northern Lights is Norman's first novel, but his prose reads like a veteran writer's. Rich with the details, personal habits, quirks, and eccentricities that make up real people, Lights is basically a coming of age story set in 1950s and 1960s northern Canada. As with The Museum Guard, Norman's characters are driven by strange tragedy. In The Museum Guard, the main character's parents are killed in a Zeppelin accident; in the Northern Lights, Noah's best friend Pelly is killed when his unicycle breaks through the ice. This sets in motion a series of events that forces Noah to adjust to the loss of his friend, and come to grips with his wandering father and lonely mother, who is obsessed with the story of Noah's ark to the point of illness. Unlike with the animals on the ark, Norman shows us that sometimes people have no companion, and must survive alone, even when surrounded by people who love them. The Cree Indians are richly drawn, and provide a touchstone--a remembrance of Pelly--when Noah moves to Toronto and befriends a family of Cree. Told in shifting chronology, the story draws the reader back and forth from action to reaction to an ending that will leave you ready for another Norman novel.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
A splendid novel about loss and recovery set in the northern wilderness territories of Manitoba and Toronto. Toronto? Wilderness is where you find it, like its cohorts, isolation and companionship. Voices on a radio, faces on a screen, a unicycle on the ice and a once mythical hermit, the real world and the imaginary intertwine in this story about a broken family living alone in a land of water and frost. There are interior distances less navigable than the vast expanse of sub-arctic forest and marsh, harder to understand and more forbidding. The reader follows the narrator, Noah, from late childhood to early manhood, reassembling the puzzle of his life. Characters of warmth and depth people this land out beyond the popcorn machine and the cardboard cutouts of movie stars in the cinema lobby of the Northern Lights.
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7 of 10 people found the following review helpful
I picked up THE NORTHERN LIGHTS after having read Norman's superb second novel, THE BIRD ARTIST, and was disappointed. Although reviews were strong for this book, and I believe it was a National Book Award finalist, it felt like an apprentice effort to me. The characters and situations were strange--as they often were in THE BIRD ARTIST--but not nearly as compelling. The plot was loose and slippery, and didn't cohere by the end of the novel. It felt like Norman was trying too hard to be obscure and poetic. This is a mediocre first novel, but does hint at the wonderful things to come. Now go read THE BIRD ARTIST.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on May 16, 2010
Howard Norman's first novel has earned him a Whitings Award in Canada, and has been nominated for a National book award in the U.S.A.
This is with good reason, for this novel is startingly assured.
A novel of lost childhood - the story concerns the friendship of two teenagers - it is also an elegy to the lost innocence of unspolt places. A delight.
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on February 3, 2015
These reviews are not for Crossley-Holland's book Northern Lights: Legends, Sagas and Folktales, but for Howard's book The Northern Lights: a novel. Does anyone know anything about Crossley-Holland"s book?
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on February 27, 2014
I thought it jumped around quite a bit but
all in all it was good. I like northern territory stories.
This author has written better books but since
this was is first one he did good.
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3 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on June 15, 2005
A good read! Along the way are some little philosophical gems that really won me over to this book. Seeing how the good people of this remote Canadian community look at life is a heart-warming experience.

I just want to add the following, as quite possibly there is a very young boy who may have read this story also. And my encounter with him may make you laugh.

As I heading out from work at 5:45!!! I met two children in the stairwell. One was a 3- or 4-year old girl with blond pigtails wearing a pink dress. The other was 6- or 7-year old boy with white blond hair, wearing round wire-rim glasses. The boy lost no time in striking up a conversation.

"Do you know my Dad?" he asked.

"Hmmm, I probably do," I replied, having no idea to whom these children belonged.

"Wow, you have a lot of bags!"

"Yes, I'm the original bag-lady."

"What's in that one?" he said, pointing to my black lap-top shoulder bag. I happen to have a good-quality lap-top bag, but not a lap-top to go in it. Such is life!

"There's a lot of junk in here," I replied, opening it and looking inside. "Mostly bills that need to be paid."

"What's in this bag?" He pointed to the plastic grocery bag.

"This is my lunch bag. I carry my lunch in it. Right now it was my raincoat in it."

"What about this one?"

"Well, the most important thing in this one are my glasses as I am quite blind without them. And my wallet."

"What else is in the black bag?" referring to the lap-top bag again.

"The most important thing in this bag is the book I'm reading at lunchtime. It's called "The Northern Lights". It's a very good book."

"I've read that book," he wasted no time in telling me.

"Have you seen the Northern Lights," I asked him.

"Oh, several times."

Meanwhile all through this the little girl was hanging on the stair-rail singing "Humpty Dumpty" which by degrees got louder and louder.

"Don't mind her," the boy said, "She's obsessed with Humpty Dumpty."

I said goodbye and laughed inside all the way home.

Obsessed? Do 6- year olds nowadays, really use this word?
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