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North of Dawn

3.37  ·  Rating details ·  576 ratings  ·  106 reviews
A couple's tranquil life abroad is irrevocably transformed by the arrival of their son's widow and children, in the latest from Somalia's most celebrated novelist.

For decades, Gacalo and Mugdi have lived in Oslo, where they've led a peaceful, largely assimilated life and raised two children. Their beloved son, Dhaqaneh, however, is driven by feelings of alienation to
Kindle Edition, 383 pages
Published December 4th 2018 by Riverhead Books
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Average rating 3.37  · 
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Ron Charles
Dec 19, 2018 rated it liked it
When Nuruddin Farah writes fiction about the ravages of terrorism, the details may be imaginary but the scars are real. The celebrated Somali novelist, a frequent contender for the Nobel Prize in literature, lost his sister Basra Farah Hassan in 2014. A nutritionist working for UNICEF, she was murdered, along with at least 20 others, when the Taliban bombed a restaurant in Kabul.

Farah’s new book, “North of Dawn,” places its characters far from flying shrapnel but deep in conflicted grief. Like
Oct 23, 2018 rated it liked it
This is the story of an older Somali-Norwegian couple who take in their deceased son's wife and stepchildren, and this story follows these characters as they acclimate to Norway and their new family. This book was tough to rate because on one hand, I enjoyed the story but on the other hand, this novel was written in a way that kept me from finding a rhythm and being fully invested. The language felt convoluted in spots, the POV changed in an instant without warning, and the passage of time in ...more
Cherise Wolas
This is the first novel I've read by Nuruddin Farah, a frequent contender for the Nobel Prize in Literature. A writer from Somalia who now lives in Cape Town, South Africa, his own sister was killed in 2014 when she was murdered along with at least 20 others when the Taliban bombed a restaurant in Kabul. Farah writes fiction about terrorism, and the ravages and scars of it. North of Dawn is about a Somali family, now longtime citizens of Norway, whose children were born and raised in Oslo. When ...more
Azita Rassi
May 10, 2019 rated it liked it
The beginning of the book was very promising, but it didn’t deliver. I don’t know whether this book is a translation or is originally written in English, but the prose was very artificial, especially the dialogues. It was like reading a political essay instead of a novel. The characters were either good or bad, and it didn’t take you beyond a few sentences to figure out which. All the same, the story itself was an engaging one, which is why I finished the book. It deals with vital issues of our ...more
Feb 02, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This novel is overly ambitious. If Mr. Farah had limited himself to the core ideas it would have been less jumbled up at the end. The story begins with parents living in Norway learning their son, who has moved to Somalia, has killed himself in a suicide bombing. The mother has promised her son that she will provide and care for his surviving widow and her son and daughter. The parents move the dead son’s family to Oslo. There the problems begin. The step children of the dead son strive to find ...more
Feb 23, 2019 rated it it was ok
A very interesting premise, but the flat, stilted dialog and writing ruined this book for me. I can't tell if it's just a really bad translation, which could be the case, as there are constant weird, outmoded English slang and terms (for example, when have you ever heard an English speaker under the age of 100 refer to children as "tykes" ?), and the characters are always going off on strange, stilted tirades that are like annoying lectures, not normal speech. Maybe it's just a reflection of ...more
What happens to the citizens of a country when the country collapses and is considered a failed state? There are only so many answers, but they all center around survival and belief. Nuruddin Farah, an established Somali writer who resides in South Africa answers this in his latest book North of Dawn.

Mugdi and Gacalo, Norwegian citizens who are originally from Somalia, find they must deal with their son's death by suicide bomb in Somalia. Mugdi disowned his son when he found him to be aligned
Dec 25, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction, 21st-century
Why is the dialogue in Farah's novels so stiltedly formal? Is it based on Somali (and also, in this case, Norwegian) speech patterns? Is it a kind of alienation effect, reminding us that these are authorial creations, a set of points of view put into conversation with each other? But they certainly draw us in nonetheless. I enjoyed this book far, far more than I did Hiding in Plain Sight. For me, there's far more dramatic tension, and it's a much more interesting investigation of the politics ...more
Dec 23, 2018 rated it it was ok
1.5 stars

A mildly interesting novel about Somalian asylum seekers' settlement into Norwegian society. It was bogged down with so much mundane detail and Mugdi seemed to have such an immense loathing for his daughter-in-law and her children up until Naciim and Saafi conformed to his standards. The writing was quite flat and detached.
Jan 09, 2019 rated it liked it
Nuruddin Farah is a celebrated Somali novelist who is often mentioned as a contender for the Nobel Prize for Literature. He frequently writes about the effects and costs of terrorism in today's world and when he does, he speaks from personal experience. His sister, who was a nutritionist working for UNICEF, was murdered along with at least 20 others in a bomb attack by the Taliban on a restaurant in Kabul 2014.

Despite his fame in the literary world, I was unacquainted with him before reading
Christopher Berry
Mar 04, 2019 rated it really liked it
I loved this one! The story was very well told, the writing is superb! I was engaged with the characters throughout! I did however, feel that the ending was a bit rushed, and it would have fit better in the middle of the story, rather than the ending. The ending ramped up another side storyline that I found interesting, but it literally only lasted for the last 10 pages or so. Other than that, this was just great!!!
Mar 06, 2019 rated it really liked it
Nurrudin Farah has been mentioned as a potential Nobel Prize winner, so I was surprised at how readable and entertaining this book was. Farah explores issues of immigration, fundamentalism and acculturation through the story of a sophisticated Somali couple, 20-year citizens of Norway, who take in their daughter-in-law and grandchildren after their son dies as a suicide bomber. Several characters were a bit sketchily drawn, but overall, I enjoyed the book and found it well worth reading.
Jan 05, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: book-club, 2019-books
I officially started reading this book this week. I couldn’t put it down, I was so enthralled.
Dec 24, 2018 rated it it was ok
Shelves: 2018_read
As another reviewer put it, this book was a "mildly interesting novel". That pretty much sums it up for me. I don't regret reading the book (spending the time) but I'm not sure I'd recommend it to others. It felt, at times, like I was reading snippets from this or that character's life but there was no cohesive story line. At times, when it felt like the story might be leading to a suspenseful moment, that moment was gone and not really spoken of again. It just didn't feel like a well knit, ...more
Dec 26, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: translations
To begin with, I have a problem with using "right-wing" as a synonym for "bigot". It's especially jarring in a book meant to show that "Muslim" and "terrorist" are not the same. Farah is correct to state that most of the problems arise from small groups of extremists opposing each other, so he (or his translator) should be more careful with language.

My second problem with this book is that although it deals with Norwegians and Somalians, there is almost no sense of place - Oslo could be anywhere
Chad Walker
I really wanted to like this one, I did. I kept looking for a reason for the artificiality of the dialogue, the lack of characterization, the ploddingness of the execution. Couldn't find one. The premise is great.
Jan 26, 2019 rated it really liked it
North of Dawn was a fascinating read about a Somali husband and wife living in Norway whose son killed himself and many others in a suicide terrorist bombing in Somalia. Although they have conflicting emotions over their son's death, they bring their son's widow and her two children to take refuge in Oslo. The writing seemed somewhat formal and removed, but yet it was very compelling. I couldn't stop reading and was very glad to have the opportunity to discuss North of Dawn in book club.

One of
Ryan Mishap
Jun 30, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: novel
Told with such a straight-forward style in all ways--especially the dialogue--I kept waiting for this to take a dramatic (or at least melo-) turn.

While most of the exciting action takes place either before the narration begins or off-camera (if you will), the exploration of the immigrant experience in northern Europe in light of extremist fundamentalists in the host countries and in the Muslim world was fascinating.
Dec 29, 2018 rated it really liked it
A detailed fascinating read

I really enjoyed this book. A detailed looked at Somali immigrants in Oslo Norway is gripping and completely worth your time.
Jan 12, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: bookclub
I was not a big fan of the writing style. It is clear and direct, but it gives little to no insight into the thoughts and motivations of the characters — which is what I find valuable in a work of fiction.
The story is interesting, but unfocused.
Feb 28, 2019 rated it liked it
The author of this book is a celebrated Somali novelist who apparently has been a frequent contender for the Nobel Prize in Literature. I was unfamiliar with him until I came across a brief plot outline of this book in The New Yorker and the premise sounded interesting.

Mugdi, a former Somali diplomat, and his wife Gacalo have lived in Oslo for two decades. Their son Dhaqaneh, raised in a secular, upper-middle-class home in Norway, was radicalized and joined Al-Shabaab, a terrorist group in
Anne-Marie Slaughter
Feb 16, 2019 rated it really liked it
A glimpse into other cultures

This novel is written in an oddly flat style that is off-putting at first but became increasingly compelling. In the end, basic human emotions and conditions cut across cultures.
Jan 07, 2019 rated it liked it
Somali family settled in Norway, but whose son is lost to Islamic fanaticism. Interesting story. I was surprised at how amateurish the writing was (seemed to me, anyway), given that the author has written numerous other novels & won numerous awards.
Feb 13, 2020 rated it liked it
The premise and the main story line of this novel are excellent: Mugdi and Gacalo, an older Somali-Norwegian couple have just lost their son in a suicide bombing in which he blew himself up as part of a terrorist group in Somalia. Although he was raised in Norway, he became radicalized when he moved back to Somalia. The parents are grief-stricken, not only by the death of their son, but also by the discovery that he was a terrorist. He leaves behind his family in Somalia, his wife and her two ...more
Bruce Alford
Jul 02, 2019 rated it it was ok
This book was featured in the New York Times, Washington Post, Kirkus Reviews as well as in NPR Books. How does a novel with so many obvious errors garner prime review real-estate? Its publication seems to have more to do with a fad and with the more serious fact that migration is a current, controversial reality. Perhaps, the publisher feels that it is contributing to a larger, important conversation on immigration.

But what about quality? Doesn’t that matter anymore?

Every character in the novel
May 01, 2019 rated it really liked it
In a story reminiscent of today’s headlines, Nuruddin Farah tackles the complex intersection of new beginnings arising from a legacy of violence, nationalism, radical religious fervor, and family loyalty. North of Dawn leaves the reader battling with essential questions such as: 1) How far will parents compromise their principles to support, and keep promises to, their children?; 2) In this new era of nationalism, for those who desire assimilation, how long does it take to move from “outsider” ...more
Bob Brinkmeyer
Really more like 3.5 stars (hey, I'm a professor and I like plus and minus grades, though the university where I now teach only allows plus grades, no minuses). Anyway, this is a timely and in many ways a deeply insightful novel about the experiences of Somalian refugees living in Norway. There's a rather large cast of characters (though focused on only several), providing a broad spectrum of the refugee experience, as characters struggle to understand themselves, their pasts, and their places ...more
Kimberly Taylor
Sep 10, 2019 rated it really liked it
The exploration of the characters in this book was excellent. Things did not turn out as I had expected them to, but the surprises were good, and earned. That is, no one did anything so unexpected that it felt out of character. The development of the grandson was especially interesting. I do feel this book was hampered by a male perspective though, all the women characters are drawn much flatter than the male characters. Further, the relationship between mother in law and daughter in law was ...more
May 03, 2019 rated it liked it
A novel about a family of assimilated Somalis living in Norway. The family is successful, has lots of friends, and gets along in the culture great--but their son ends up going back to Somalia and committing an act of terrorism. Then, his widow and step-children end up getting sent to Norway under his parents' care.

The widow never assimilates, and shuts herself off from Norwegian society. Her children, however, learn Norwegian, go to school and get jobs, and become very close to the grandparents.
Jan 24, 2019 rated it did not like it
I should have read the Wash Post review more carefully before reading this book.

"“North of Dawn” suffers from a ramshackle quality one might expect from an exciting but not quite finished draft. There are strange gaps in the plot, and the prose sometimes slips into antique cliches. Confronted by an aggressive woman at his front door, Mugdi suspects “that she has cased the joint.” Another character “moves like greased lightning and is at the cafe huffing
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Play Book Tag: North of Dawn by Nuruddin Farah - 4 stars 3 35 Dec 09, 2018 09:23AM  

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Nuruddin Farah (Somali: Nuuradiin Faarax, Arabic: نور الدين فرح) is a prominent Somali novelist. Farah has garnered acclaim as one of the greatest contemporary writers in the world, his prose having earned him accolades including the Premio Cavour in Italy, the Kurt Tucholsky Prize in Sweden, the Lettre Ulysses Award in Berlin, and in 1998, the prestigious Neustadt International Prize for ...more
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“one group’s resistance fighter is another group’s rogue.” 0 likes
“favorite Norwegian novel, Giants in the Earth.” 0 likes
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