13 August 2012

Book Review: "The Mountains Wait"

Out-of-Norway via
Summer, for me, is a time to read, and read, and then to do some more reading. I have a long list of Norwegian and Norwegian-American historical fiction and non-fiction on this summer’s book list.

The Mountains Wait, published by Webb Book Publishing Co. in 1942, is an authentic first person account of life in a northern Norway just prior to and during World War II. It’s an eyewitness account of actual events that took place in Narvik on the fateful morning of April 9, 1940 and the months that followed.

The author, Theodor Broch, was a 36-year-old lawyer and the newly elected Mayor of Narvik. He had been educated in Oslo, and in 1930 he and his wife had moved to Narvik, a community inland (east) of the Lofoten Islands, three hours south of Tromso. Narvik, a city of about 10,000 people at that time, is located on the shores of the Ofotijorden (Narvik Fjord), an inlet of the Norwegian Sea located 120 miles north of the Arctic Circle.

In the first 100 pages or so, the author vividly describes how he and his wife came to live in Narvik, what the people were like, how the city was structured, what kinds of legal issues were brought before the courts, and how he established himself as a qualified young lawyer and community leader. Chapter eight, titled The Ninth of April, begins with “The ninth of April [1939] was a Tuesday. That day lightning struck and our world broke in pieces.” He goes on to say “Afterwards we often talked of the day before the catastrophe.…Perhaps we recalled the day only because it was the last in a normal world.” The remaining 207 pages provide a glimpse into what it was like to have your life, and the life of those you love, invaded and occupied by the Germans. He outlines a life under the cold and watchful eyes of occupation troops, of sea fighting and land fighting, and of vigorous sabotage and resistance.

The book is easily read in a couple of days, but leaves a lasting image of what it is like to have your life completely disrupted by war. It’s not your typical ‘war’ novel, in that it doesn’t go into the minute details of guns, machinery, and battles won and lost. Instead, it paints a vivid first-person account of the civilian lives impacted by the invasion. The book actually ends in about 1942, prior to the end of the war, and leaves the reader with a sense of anxiety over whether (and if so, how) the people will ever return to a life of normalcy.

I highly recommend this book. You might have to check it out from your local library, as it is out of print; however, a few used copies may be available online or at a used bookstore.   _________________________

Luci Baker Johnson

No comments: