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Walking into the Night : A Novel Hardcover – Bargain Price, October 28, 2003

4.5 out of 5 stars 11 customer reviews

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Hardcover, Bargain Price, October 28, 2003
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--This text refers to the Paperback edition.

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

The lavish California home of William Randolph Hearst is impeccably managed by butler Christian Benediktson, a tall, quiet man who keeps to himself and runs a no-nonsense operation. His past, however, continues to haunt him, and it slowly unfolds in a series of unsent letters to his wife, whom he left, along with his Icelandic home, 20 years before. Christian married above his station and inherited a fishing business in his native Iceland. After turning it into a lucrative exporting business, he began an affair with a Swedish vaudeville star in New York. After quietly leaving his wife, and after the affair self-destructed, he fled New York and all of his business contacts, and entered the service of Hearst. His guilt-ridden letters home to his wife explain his motives in a moving, introspective way. This fascinating novel is loosely based on Hearst's real-life butler, and Olafsson marvelously brings to life the isolation and small-town flavor of Iceland, pre-Depression New York, and the lavish parties of Hearst's mansion, all seen through the sad eyes of one man. Michael Spinella
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


"'With Walking into the Night, Olaf Olafsson joins Kazuo Ishiguro and P.G. Wodehouse as a creator of great literary butlers.' Daily Telegraph 'An elegant and moving novel.' Independent" --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Pantheon Books (October 28, 2003)
  • ISBN-10: 0375422544
  • ASIN: B000C4SV1O
  • Product Dimensions: 8.3 x 5.7 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #4,609,864 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
"Such a long time ago," he repeated to himself in the quiet of the evening and chose to leave it all at that, rather than acknowledge how many years it had been. He gripped the balcony rail with both hands, leaned forward then, straightened up and went inside.
The pale moon had risen above the ragged mountains."
Which man would abandon his lovely wife and four children in Iceland to travel to America without a cold shoulder or quarrel?
And which man having left his homeland will start a new affair with an American-Swede actress, treat her shoddily for no real reason except for the fact that he didn't give a hang about anyone but himself? That person is none other than Christian Benediktsson, the main character of this novel.
After leaving his family in Iceland, Christian Benediktsson becomes involved in a tragic affair in New York with Klara an actress. As the relationship comes to an end, Christian's funds begin to dwindle, forcing him to take on small jobs, waiting tables and whatever else. He is waiting tables at a big hotel when he is noted by William Randolph Hearst for his competence and attentiveness. He offers him a job which he readily accepts leaving New York for California to become butler to Hearst and Marion Davis, his good friend.
He enjoys his years working at San Simeon, the massive and lavish estate in California where Hearst entertains celebrities and politicians regularly. He is Hearst's second man and in charge of all activities at San Simeon, however large or small. Nothing can happen without Christain's involvement and he is well respected in the circles that flaunt this wealthy dwelling place.
But Christian has his moments too, and it is only when settled at San Simeon that he becomes haunted by his past life.
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Format: Hardcover
Christian Benediktsson, the seriously flawed main character of this novel, has been the butler to William Randolph Hearst for sixteen years when the novel opens at Hearst's "castle" in San Simeon in 1937. Conscientious and dedicated to his job, Christian tells us in the opening pages that he is haunted by ghosts of the past--both of Klara, his lover, and of his wife Elizabeth, with whom he has four children. He abandoned all of them, years ago, to seek a new life. As Olafsson depicts Christian's early life in Iceland and his escape from it, he simultaneously portrays the glittery life of William Randolph Hearst and, peripherally, his relationship with the omnipresent actress Marion Davies.
The reader quickly sees innumerable parallels between the lives of Christian and Hearst, both in their love affairs and in their financial affairs, the differences being those of scale. Both hope to create new personal worlds in San Simeon. Olafsson shows through the symbolism and nature imagery which permeate the book, however, that this desire runs counter to nature, and he implies that no matter how much control Hearst may try to exert over the outside world as he builds his castle, that he will be unable to overcome the natural desolation of its gravelly soil and dry creek beds.

Christian's life, too, is closely linked with nature. He abhors the confinement of Hearst's zoo animals and once rescued and released a mouse from inside the house. He is particularly sensitive to birds, and the bird imagery which fills the book is associated with old memories and freedom. Yet despite his apparent romantic empathy with the birds, Christian cannot overcome his personal nature and his inborn selfishness. When he wants to draw a hawk, he tells us "I shot it yesterday.
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Format: Hardcover
Christian Benediktson, the butler of William Randolph Hearst at his castle in San Simeon, is a man of mystery. He's quiet, unassuming, and intensely private, revealing himself to readers thru bits and pieces revealed in a series of letters to the wife he abandoned years ago. These letters accumulate in his desk drawer at the Hearst home. There are other chapters, some told in 1st person, some told in omniscient 3rd person, a few in the point of view of other characters, that round out the story of Christian's complicated past lives in Iceland and New York. It is frequently difficult for readers, at the beginning of some of these chapters to tell exactly who is speaking and what point in time is being related. While this is initially confusing, it adds, ultimately, to the mesmerizing, dream-like quality that allows readers to feel they are being carried along, floated along, on the sad, guilt-ridden narrative.
Very loosely based (via a series of journals and letters that came into the author's possession) on Hearst's real-life butler, the story is peopled with real people and narrates real events in their lives, all seen thru the remorseful eyes of the butler.
Excellent, excellent, excellent...
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By anne on October 15, 2004
Format: Hardcover
I loved it from the first sentence but it seemed oddly familiar until I realized that for me it felt much like reading "The English Patient" - a man reflecting on a lost lover and recounting events leading up to catastrophe in a manner that builds suspense and renders every detail of loss and betrayal with painful clarity. There was even a similar obsession with the hollow in a lover's neck. Among its many outstanding qualities was its ability to pack such emotional intensity into austere language and quick scenes (a once-successful businessman who now waits tables at the hotel where he was a regular guest and doesn't care who was asking for him because there's no one he wants to see). I look forward to reading it again soon.
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