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The Orange Girl by Jostein Gaarder

Reading Jostein Gaarder Sophie’s World in 1995 brought me fond memories. It was such a long time ago but I remember it as a piece of important work that I will re-read one day (two copies sitting on my shelves testify for a fervent intent!)

My father died eleven years ago. I was only four then. I never thought I’d hear from him again, but now we’re writing a book together.”

I found this 151 pages The Orange Girl during a charity book sale.

It ‘s about Georg Road, aged 15, whose grandparents found his father’s letters from the lining of the push chairs in the family home in Humleveien. The letters are Georg’s father written for the future when Georg is mature.

The person who figures most in the letter of course is the Orange girl, whose identity is revealed at the end of the story. It was cheesey, but I was still caught by surprise at very end. Gullible me.

The Orange Girl was called thus because the day Georg’s father, Jan Olav bumped into her, she was carrying a bag of oranges and wearing an orange anorak at times.

In true tradition of metafiction style, besides writing about the orange girl, Georg’s father talks about the Hubble Space Telescope and the Big Bang Theory. Not to a large extent, but a few paragraphs. Georg understands that by picking up the light from distant stars, the telescope actually looks back into the past.

Gaarder gave a very good sense of place in Oslo, giving out what seems like a touristic landmarks of Oslo. I was marking down all the names and places that he mentioned and hopefully have a glimpse of them through google map. Here’s what I found (may contain spoilers):

Point A – Stortingsgaten

Jan Olav met the Orange girl at the tram to Frognerveien, turning towards the Parliament. Somewhere around the turn to the Parliament Stortingsget, the Orange girl spill her oranges on the tram.

Point B – Youngstorget Fruit Market

Naturally hoping to bump into the Orange girl again, where else could you find her but in the city’s fruit market?

Point C – Wergelandsveien Cathedral

Both Jan Olav and The Orange Girl are not religious but on Christmas Eve they both went to church at Wergelandsveien and guess what they met each other again!

The Norwegian Parliament, Stortinget

The Main Thoroughfare of Karl Johan

If you can see it in the map, there is a main thoroughfare called Karl Johan. Amongst these cafe, 19-year-old Georg’s father, Jan Olav sat here for four hours waiting for the Orange Girl to appear.

Point D is Humleveien – Humleveien is the family home of Georg grandparents.

Point E is Holmenkollen – it’s where Georg’s father been to, hoping to see the Orange Girl but was disappointed. Georg and his father went back to Holmenkollen later.

“This year you and I stood down on the level and looked up at all the ski-jumpers. The weather on that March day was quite unique. A rare, mild wind had sighed over the country bringing temperatures that were almost summery. The snow for the huge ski-jump had to be transported half way across the country, or from the mountains near Finse to be more exact.” – Jan Olav page 73

And this! is the ski-jump!!

At the very end, when the Orange girl tried to help Jan Olav recalls the streets of his childhood, she mentioned she lives around Humleveien? Irisveien? Kloverveien? of all Jan Olav couldn’t remember. Look at the following map this is what I found, the 3 streets are parallel or perpendicular to each other, ok to be exact Irisveien is perpendicular to Humleveien.

I felt as if I just tour the city of Oslo and beyond!

The book has its touching moment, in Georg’s father’s words:

But now it’s your turn to answer, Georg; the floor is yours. It was while we were both sitting out there that night under the starry sky that I made up my mind to write this long letter to you. It suddenly brought tears to my eyes. The reason I cried wasn’t just because I knew I might soon be leaving you. I cried because you were so young. I cried because the two of us couldn’t have a proper talk.

I ask again what would you have chosen if you’d had the chance? Would you have elected to live a short span on earth only to be wrenched away from it all, never ever to return? Or would you have said no, thank you?

You have only these two choices. Those are the rules. In choosing to live, you also choose to die. (page 127)

The dream of something unlikely has its own special name. We called it hope. – page 129

Rating: 4/5

The book was a little soppy for me, but I can see how good it would be on the big screen adaptation. I don’t like reading soppy books but if I see it on big screen, I may shed a tear or two. The heartfelt message of a father in the throes of death, it is hard not to be moved. The translation from Norwegian language feels a bit choppy. Having said that, Jostein Gaarder has a flair of writing books for young adults yet readable by adult. I look forward to read his other books.

Take a look at the movie trailer, I was first introduced to it by Bina@if you can read this:

“Don’t tell me nature isn’t a miracle. Don’t tell me the world isn’t a fairytale. Anyone who hasn’t realised that, may never understand until the fairy tale is just about to end. Then there is one final chance to tear off the blinkers, a last chance to rub your eyes in amazement, a final opportunity to abandon yourself to the wonder you are bidding farewell to and leaving.” – page 115

Other views:

Bianca Book Blog “The effects linger gently, and despite the story’s slight element of predictability, it is a pleasing and worthwhile read for adults as well as children.”

Mel Reading Corner “I would say it is a powerful book; one remarkable story that led me into thinking of the meaning of life and death, and how life could be appreciated even in small, simple ways.”

This is my first book for the Nordic Challenge 2011.

Hardback. Publisher: Weidenfeld & Nicolson 2004 ; Length: 207 pages; Setting: Norway, Seville Spain. Source: Own copy. Finished reading on: 10 April 2011. Translated by James Anderson.

About the Writer:

Jostein Gaarder (born 8 August 1952 in Oslo) is a Norwegian intellectual and author of several novels, short stories and children’s books. Gaarder often writes from the perspective of children, exploring their sense of wonder about the world. He often uses metafiction in his works, writing stories within stories.

Gaarder was born into a pedagogical family. His best known work is the novel Sophie’s World, subtitled A Novel about the History of Philosophy. This popular work has been translated into fifty-three languages; there are over thirty million copies in print.

In 1997, he established the Sophie Prize together with his wife Siri Dannevig. This prize is an international environment and development prize (USD100,000 = €77,000), awarded annually. It is named after the novel.

Other books by Jostein Gaarder:

Diagnosen og andre noveller (The Diagnosis and Other Stories) (1986)
Froskeslottet (The Frog Castle) (1988)
Kabalmysteriet (The Solitaire Mystery) (1990)
Sofies verden (Sophie’s World) (1991)
Julemysteriet (The Christmas Mystery) (1992)
Bibbi Bokkens magiske bibliotek (Bibbi Bokkens magic library) (together with Klaus Hagerup (1993)
I et speil, i en gåte (Through a Glass, Darkly) (1993)
Hallo? Er det noen her? (Hello? Is Anybody There?) (1996)
Vita Brevis (Brief Life) (also appeared in English as That Same Flower) (1996)
Vita Brevis: A Letter to St Augustine (1998)
Maya (1999)
Sirkusdirektørens datter (The Ringmaster’s Daughter) (2001)
Appelsinpiken (The Orange Girl) (2004)
Sjakk Matt (Checkmate) (2006)
De gule dvergene (The Yellow Dwarves) (2006)
Slottet i Pyreneene (The Castle in the Pyrenees) (2008)

I have no idea Jostein Gaarder wrote so many books since Sophie’s World!

Have you read his other books? If so which would you recommend?


About JoV

A bookaholic that went out of control.... I eat, sleep and breathe books. Well, lately I do other stuff.


31 thoughts on “The Orange Girl by Jostein Gaarder

  1. What a fantastic review! That ski jump looks amazing, i’d never wondered for a second what Oslo looks like now i’m curious to see more. This post reminded me of the book drum where photos, music etc are provided to support a reading of a text.
    The ringmaster’s daughter is fantastic, you should definitely check it out.

    Posted by katrina | April 12, 2011, 6:21 am
  2. I need to reread Sophie’s World too! I got a copy at a garage sale where I also got an ergonomic office chair, and the office chair has long since been given away (I wished I could keep it but I was simplifying my life), and I still haven’t reread the book. Such is life, eh? :p

    Posted by Jenny | April 13, 2011, 1:46 am
  3. I love the cover of this book. Draws me closer to it.

    Posted by Geosi | April 13, 2011, 10:00 am
  4. That is one amazing ski jump – it almost looks fake. 🙂

    I started Sophie’s World a few years back and thought it was a great start but got sucked away by reviews that needed to be done …. will get to it some day.

    Cheers JoV.

    Posted by Shellie | April 13, 2011, 5:43 pm
    • Shellie, the ski-jump looks awesome isn’t it? It is rather surreal. Imagine the professionals are jumping off at frightening heights! I hope you get to read the book one day. 🙂

      Posted by JoV | April 16, 2011, 7:30 pm
  5. This book seems like a way to discover Oslo! I still have to read Sopie’s world, so I don’t even know of I like his style . Some people told me it was a tough read.

    Posted by Bina | April 13, 2011, 10:02 pm
    • Bina, some instances in Sophie’s World is quite textbooky, overall it’s eye opening. Maybe skip Sophie’s World and get on to Gaarder’s shorter work? and see what you make of it?

      Posted by JoV | April 16, 2011, 7:32 pm
      • Sounds like a good idea, only I have Sophie’s world on my shelf 😉 As long as the philophy parts aren’t prententious and super intellectual I’ll be alright, I think. I’ll wait till the mood strikes 😉

        Posted by Bina | April 17, 2011, 8:20 pm
        • Bina, oh dear I’m afraid Sophie’s World gets quite intellectual. At least it’s one of the great conversational topic to impress someone if say you do some name dropping on what these famous philosophers believe in!

          Posted by JoV | April 25, 2011, 8:23 pm
  6. Jostein Gaarder has written a new book?!

    I love reading Sophie’s World (not sure if I still do). But I find his other books not so good. Tell me. It is a must read, isn’t it? Since you put a 4 out of 5!

    Posted by Wilfrid Wong | April 14, 2011, 12:27 am
    • Wilfrid, I was surprised too. Ever since Sophie’s World he has written MANY books! check the list out. I still wouldn’t say it is a must read. If you don’t read it, it is not the end of the world. It is a very simple story and written in a very simple prose, you may like it.

      Posted by JoV | April 16, 2011, 7:38 pm
  7. Hi JoV,

    Thanks for commenting on my blog and linking my review. Glad to find your blog! 🙂

    Posted by Melody | April 14, 2011, 12:48 am
  8. This sounds awesome; I do have Sophie’s World (unread) on my shelves.

    Posted by (Diane)BibliophileBytheSea | April 17, 2011, 2:54 am
  9. Wonderful review, Jo! I have read bits-and-pieces of ‘Sophie’s World’ and liked it. Have to read the whole book one day. I didn’t know that Gaarder wrote so many books! Interesting to know that ‘The Orange Girl’ has been made into a movie. I would love to watch it. Yes, that ski jump is awesome! I also love the other pictures of Oslo that you have posted – that parliament building looks so beautiful!

    Posted by Vishy | May 12, 2011, 4:10 am
  10. What is the name of the childrens Norwegian folk tales book mentioned in Through a Glass Darkly?

    I am an avid fan of Gaarder. Would love to read this folk tale book as apparently lots of Norwegian children read it.

    Posted by Kate Ennis | July 27, 2011, 2:45 pm
    • Kate,
      I wouldn’t be able to answer you if I haven’t look up at the Internet. Her name is Cecilia and the angel Ariel. Interestingly it won the Norwegian bookseller’s prize. This pique my interest now. Thanks for mentioning it.

      Posted by JoV | July 27, 2011, 7:08 pm
  11. I had this book when I was in 5th grade but I was so young to understand it before. Now I want to read it!!!

    Posted by Meg | December 13, 2011, 1:18 pm
  12. I am a huge fan of Jostein Gaarder and have read Sophie’s World, The Solitaire Mystery (my favourite!!), The Christmas Mystery, The Ringmaster’s Daughter, The Orange Girl, Through a Glass, Darkly, and The Castle in the Pyrenees and have thoroughly enjoyed all of his books, the least I enjoyed perhaps being The Castle… I am looking forward to reading Maya, Vita Brevis… can anyone who has read these books give a review? Thanks heaps!

    Posted by VielC | December 14, 2011, 10:14 am


  1. Pingback: It’s a wrap! : April 2011 « Bibliojunkie - May 2, 2011

  2. Pingback: The Orange Girl by Jostein Gaarder | Iris on Books - July 4, 2012

  3. Pingback: Despre efemeritatea vieții într-o poveste cu multe portocale - ”Fata cu portocale” de Jostein Gaarder | Bookaholic - March 11, 2014

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Ratings Defined

0 = Abandon the book after first chapter

1 = Waste of paper, we will see what the environmentalist say about this!

2 = Skip it, read the book if you have got nothing better to do

2.5 = An average book, easily forgettable.

3 = A good read.

3.5 = A good entertaining read, a page-turner

4 = So glad that I read the book, a book with substance and invaluable for future reference

4.5 = So glad that I read the book, would pester everyone to read it, invaluable, I would want to own it and wouldn't mind a second read (something that I seldom do)

5 = The book is so good that I feel like I am on scale 4 and 4.5, and more, it blew me away and lingers on my head for weeks!

Books Read

JoV's bookshelf: read
Hold Tight
The Fault in Our Stars
The Everything Store: Jeff Bezos and the Age of Amazon
The Thief
Catching Fire
A Tale for the Time Being
Into the Darkest Corner
The Liars' Gospel
Goat Mountain
Strange Weather In Tokyo
Strange Shores
And the Mountains Echoed
Ten White Geese
One Step Too Far
The Innocents
The General: The ordinary man who became one of the bravest prisoners in Guantanamo
White Dog Fell from the Sky
A Virtual Love
The Fall of the Stone City

JoV's favorite books »
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Reading, after a certain age, diverts the mind too much from its creative pursuits. Any man who reads too much and uses his own brain too little falls into lazy habits of thinking. - Albert Einstein (1879 - 1955)

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