Nikolaj moves to a newly constructed house in a suburb in one of the counties surrounding Oslo in the early 1970s. His father is one of the architects who planned the area, and is full of dreams about the social opportunities the new affordable housing will mean for families in the area. As it turns out, most of the families who move in stick to a rigid routine of conformity and normality – their children wear the same thing, cut their hair the same way, they mow their lawns on the same day and wash their cars once a week. As the only boy in the neighbourhood with shoulder-length hair, a father who’s a hippie and a mother who’s Danish, Nikolaj finds it difficult to fit in. All his attempts at youthful rebellion are thwarted because his parents are fully supportive of youthful protest, defiance and voicing one’s own opinion. They cheer him on rather than disapprove.
When Nikolaj’s mother is killed by a hit and run driver, his life irrevocably changes. Magnus, his formerly jovial and cheerful father withdraws completely into grief and depression, forcing Nikolaj to take on the role as caretaker. His aunt and uncle take his younger brother away, leaving Nikolaj alone with the grieving widower. He barely ever goes to school and desperately seeks a way out. He finds some outlet of his own grief and frustration in punk, forming a punk band with some of his friends and starts experimenting with drugs. Initially, Magnus seems baffled by his son’s love of the Sex Pistols and other punk idols, but eventually ends up almost co-opting this attempt at teenage rebellion too, even stepping in to help out on drums at one of the band’s concerts. Things are bound to come to a head, and they do.
I’m finally catching up on my backlog of blogging! This is the book I wrote my exam term paper on (and the movie it was adapted into). Full review here.