Official book description (any errors in translation are mine):
Mani is a newly graduated economist and has just secured a job at the Ministry of Education and Research. He is a young man who lives with his father in a flat at Haugenstua, in the east of Oslo, and has a girlfriend he thinks he’s going to marry someday. Preferably, he’d like to use his abilities in the private sector, where the prestige and the money lies, because he’s painfully aware that both his girlfriend and the environment around him only look with disdain at the public sector. It doesn’t pay very well, either.
His new employment situation means adjusting to entirely new cultural values, where an old flat in Gamlebyenis more desirable than Mani’s new, and expensive, flat at Skillebekk and where Mani’s regular kebab shop is seen as more “genuine” and ranked higher than the Theatre Café. Mani also becomes a proud contributor to the big communal project known as the State.
Yellow Book is a novel about class and belonging, about the lives we live and the framework that surrounds us. It’s also a story about where you’re coming from and where you are going. It’s far from the east of Oslo to the corridors of the ministry.
Back in 2017, Pakistani Norwegian author Zeshan Shakar published his remarkable debut Tante Ulrikkes vei. It went on to be one of the most bestselling books in Norway for several years, and his follow up novel was greatly anticipated. While not quite so universally loved and lauded by all kinds of media that reviewed it, this novel, Yellow Book, nevertheless received a lot of praise and sold out its first few printings instantly (that everyone had to stay home during lock-down and had more time for reading, probably didn’t hurt sales either). Reluctant to pay what a new release hardback book costs here in Norway, I requested it through my local library (I was #397 on the waiting list). The book was released in August, I was able to pick up my copy in mid-November.
Having now finished the book, I’m very glad I didn’t pay for it in a book store. I waited until Shakar’s debut novel was available on sale, having now read this one, I doubt I’ll ever want to own it. I got my expectations raised by the author’s first book and the positive reviews for this novel and was disappointed to discover that this book was just so unremarkable and while stuff happened during the novel (parts of it are set during and in the aftermath of the 22nd of July 2011 terror attack), with the building Mani and his colleagues work at completely destroyed in the bomb blast that day), Mani, the protagonist seems to end up in exactly the same place he started the novel, albeit with a slightly more secure and stable income.
One of the things I tell my students when they are to write a story is that they need to make something happen – there needs to be a change of some sort, either internally in one of the characters or externally in the plot. And while things do change for Mani, by the end, it all feels meaningless and pointless, because he more or less seems to be back at square one. Based on the reviews I’d read, I expected more. Full review here.