‘Mirror, Shoulder, Signal’ by Dorthe Nors – An Amusing Drive through Copenhagen

 

‘Mirror, Shoulder, Signal’ by Dorthe Nors  (2016) – 188 pages   Translated from the Danish  by Misha Hoekstra

Don’t expect any thrilling or suspenseful plot in ‘Mirror, Shoulder, Signal’, because there isn’t any.  The novel is pleasantly inconsequential, and that is a good thing.

It is mostly the viewpoints and reminiscences of a single Danish woman in her forties named Sonya as she goes about her daily life. She had a boyfriend who left for “a twenty-something girl who still wore French braids”, so she lives alone now and that is just fine with her.  Nothing spectacular or even very noteworthy takes place in this story. It is her deadpan way of looking at things that makes the scenes humorous. This is a novel that goes its way on its attitude.

Sonya is learning to drive a car (thus the name of the novel), and her driving instructor is a forceful woman named Jytte who tends to often get hysterical and does not trust Sonya to switch gears.  Jytte does all the gear switching with her remote device, and Sonya never will learn to switch gears from Jytte. So Sonya asks to change driving instructors behind Jytte’s back, and is assigned a man named Folke.  The only problem with Folke is that she fears this married man has wandering hands.

I just want to learn how to drive, okay? I don’t want to have my hand held, I don’t want to be massaged, hugged, or interrogated, to be hit on or coochie-cooed.  I want to learn how to drive that car so I can drive over there.”

‘Mirror, Shoulder, Signal’ contains many hilarious scenes of Sonya interacting with the people around her.

Sonya translates the crime novels of Swedish crime writer Gösta Svensson for her living, and she jokes about all his gory victims.

 “These days what she knows most about is how to cast bodies in ditches, the deep woods, lime pits, landfills.  Mutilated women and children lying and rotting everywhere on Scandinavian public land.”

 Although Sonya now lives in the metropolis of Copenhagen, she often remembers her childhood in Jutland on the farm.  She has frequent flashbacks to her rural childhood, her farm family and the whooper swans and the large herds of deer.  She writes a too-honest letter which she never does send to her sister Kate who still lives there.

‘Mirror, Shoulder, Signal’ is light and amiable and amusing, a pleasant interlude from all the more vexing problems of today.

 

Grade:    B+ 

 

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8 responses to this post.

  1. Well, this ought to trigger a whole lot of learning to drive stories, right?
    Here’s mine: I was taught to drive by a racing-car driver. A good one, who held records for this and that. He taught me high-speed cornering, how to manage a slide and what to do about gravel and oil. I learned on the road that goes around the Albert Park Lake which now hosts the annual Grand Prix – in my day it was the only road in Melbourne that had no street lights and in those days if there were no street lights you could legally do the ton (100kmh, or in today’s metrics 160kph) – so I learned to do that too.
    But Terry had a relaxed attitude to road rules, and only told me about the book of rules that I had to know, the night before my test. I was good at swotting so that was ok. But what was not ok was that Terry had never mentioned that you’re not supposed to go over the white line on the road at the traffic lights, and I did, by half an inch, so I failed my test. I was mortified, I’d never failed anything in my life before!

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    • LIsa,
      Great Story. I certainly did not have a race car driver teaching me to drive. It was my mother who gave me the most lessons instead. However I too failed the first time, but came back a month later and passed.

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      • I was too hard up to afford a second go at it. It wasn’t until two years later that I had another go, and that time I took lessons with a very staid driving school so that I was sure about the rules, and then I passed.
        What’s interesting about this, is that the staid driving school didn’t actually teach me anything about *driving*. The skills I have that have kept me out of trouble over the years, were all learned from my first instructor. So I’m a firm believer in off-road pre-driving courses, and made sure that The Offspring did one before he was let loose on the road.

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        • I’m not sure recovering from a slide is the best training for on-street driving. The only slides I’ve had to recover from are sliding on ice. Most of my problems have resulted from an excess of caution rather than an excess of daring. 🙂

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  2. Ouch, typo, (and I proof read it twice!) Could you please fix “But *what* was not ok”, thanks…

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  3. I enjoyed this story, and could identify with Sonya, as I didn’t take my car driving test until I was 40 (and 7 months pregnant!). I passed first time having had a lovely retired policeman as instructor. However, nearly twenty years previously, it took me two goes to get my motorcycle licence – the first time I had no idea what was in the test (much like Lisa!) After that I was a certified biker chick for a bit!

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    Reply

    • Hi Annabel,
      It is somewhat surprising to me that you got your motorcycle license twenty years before your automobile license. I always figured motorcycle drivers were already adept at driving cars too. 🙂

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