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the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction


Wait, Blink

Gunnhild Øyehaug

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To purchase Wait, Blink

Title: Wait, Blink
Author: Gunnhild Øyehaug
Genre: Novel
Written: 2008 (Eng. 2018)
Length: 277 pages
Original in: Norwegian
Availability: Wait, Blink - US
Wait, Blink - UK
Wait, Blink - Canada
Wait, Blink - India
Ich wär gern wie ich bin - Deutschland
  • A Perfect Picture of Inner Life
  • Norwegian title: Vente, blinke
  • Translated by Kari Dickson
  • Vente, blinke was filmed as Women in Oversized Men's Shirts in 2015, directed by Yngvild Sve Flikke

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Our Assessment:

B : intriguing voice; busy novel of character/relationships portraits

See our review for fuller assessment.

Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
The NY Times Book Rev. . 26/8/2018 Claire Vaye Watkins
Publishers Weekly . 7/4/2018 .
World Literature Today . 7-8/2018 Lanie Tankard

  From the Reviews:
  • "Wait, Blink feels most organic in these moments of squalor and when its plotlines intersect, an impressive feat given that its narrators revel in serendipity and coincidence. Allusions to Dante and Cervantes clang interestingly against the novel’s lively pop-culture riffs" - The New York Times Book Review, Claire Vaye Watkins

  • "Suffused with cultural references, Øyehaug’s novel has intriguing characters and sharp moments, though these are let down by trite themes and uneven prose, and the book as a whole tends to blend together." - Publishers Weekly

  • "Interior psychological monologues play as if a neuroscientist exploring the conscious mind had reset a functional fMRI to fictional. (...) Wait, Blink is a witty and cerebral braid of events both real and fictional -- driven by self-talk, undergirded by literary criticism, and sprinkled with factoids." - Lanie Tankard, World Literature Today

Please note that these ratings solely represent the complete review's biased interpretation and subjective opinion of the actual reviews and do not claim to accurately reflect or represent the views of the reviewers. Similarly the illustrative quotes chosen here are merely those the complete review subjectively believes represent the tenor and judgment of the review as a whole. We acknowledge (and remind and warn you) that they may, in fact, be entirely unrepresentative of the actual reviews by any other measure.

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The complete review's Review:

       Wait, Blink's omniscient narrator is not a distant camera lens describing the scenes but rather up-close and very personal; writing in the first person plural, that narrator's 'we' inevitably also suggesting the reader is a closer part of it. Both playfully text-aware -- a riff on quoting a poem includes an explanation about the annoyance of obtaining (legal, copyright) permissions to do so -- and zooming from one intimate view of a character to the next, it is an appealing overview-voice. It's a lot to overview however: in its fairly short chapters, Wait, Blink sweeps both across a large cast of characters as well as quite a bit of time in looking back as well as describing the more current.
       The novel is divided into three main sections -- 'Mornings', 'Middays', and the amalgam 'Dinnertimes / Evenings / Mornings / Middays / Afternoons' -- as well as a postscript in the form of 'Final Comments' (which at first appears to merely be an attributions-list, but is in fact something more). Within each, dozens of chapters shift between numerous (and variously overlapping) characters, often coupling up (though also at various stages of de-coupling). Literature figures prominently -- and several of the characters are or have studied literature (and one keeps a picture of Paul de Man on her wall) --, while specific films -- Sofia Coppola's Lost in Translation and Quentin Tarantino's Kill Bill: Vol. 2 -- are the most significant cultural and personal touchstones for some of the characters.
       Wait, Blink is a sort of relationship(s) novel, following several characters as they seek out or chance upon an other, or try to figure out the nature of their relationships: "Oh, why can't I just love you" one character thinks while traveling with a boyfriend who seems perfect -- except he isn't perfect for her. Age differences crop up repeatedly -- and Øyehaug repeatedly, even insistently, reminds readers of various characters' ages -- with twenty-three-year-old Sigrid drawn to the writer, Kåre, who is twenty years her senior; producer Robert, at fifty-one, so enamored of film director Linnea (27) that he can't bear to break the news to her that he hasn't found the money for her film; and university student Viggo, sharing a moment with twelve-year-old Elida at his grandmother's funeral (a memory that lingers, even as they only find each other again when Elida is a more appropriate age).
       Wait, Blink veers along between these (and more) characters, in detailed scenes that focus on the rapid shifts in feeling and reaction as life -- and the other -- unfolds in front of them; there's an effective element of slow-motion to many of the scenes, as Øyehaug doesn't just throw dialogue back and forth but has conversation and feeling unfold. There's an almost fairy-tale romance to some of the story-lines -- Viggo lost a gold tooth on his way to his grandmother's funeral, and year's later it finds its way to Elida, who keeps it as a talisman -- as well as more visceral scenes from life (such as nursing mother Trine's milking issues).
       Among the times the title words come up is in the summary sentence: "Wait, blink, survive" -- not quite the mantra of the characters, with their often uncertain struggles, but summing up much of the action (as much of life of course also consists of forms of inaction, a puttering on).
       The intriguing narrative voice, with an enjoyable playful side to it and its penetrating interiority, is strong enough to sustain interest in Wait, Blink, and the different storylines are quite well dosed out and kept up; if some of the (inter)action and occurences are unlikely, the novel nevertheless feels 'real', a convincing -- if very busy -- set of character- and relationship-portraits. The subtitle -- promising: A Perfect Picture of Inner Life -- sets the bar rather too high, but there are fine glimpses of several inner lives here.

- M.A.Orthofer, 21 June 2018

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Wait, Blink: Reviews: Women in Oversized Men's Shirts - the film: Other books of interest under review:

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About the Author:

       Norwegian author Gunnhild Øyehaug was born in 1975.

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© 2018 the complete review

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