The Orange Girl by Jostein Gaarder

Cheers to oranges that can't stay in the bag, the Hubble telescope, and our parents ending up together!

Synopsis of The Orange Girl by Jostein GaarderAt fifteen, Georg comes upon a letter written to him by his dying father, to be read when he comes of age. Their two voices make a fascinating dialogue as Georg comes to know the father he can barely remember, then is challenged by him to answer some profound questions. The central mystery of The Orange Girl is the story of an elusive young woman for whom Georg’s father searches in Oslo and Seville—and whom Georg finally realizes is his mother. A thought-provoking fairy-tale romance imbued with the sense of awe and wonder that is Jostein Gaarder’s hallmark.

Norwegian author Jostein Gaarder, whose novel Sophie’s World was a best-seller in 40 countries, is also the author of The Ringmaster’s Daughter, Maya, The Solitaire Mystery, and The Christmas Mystery.

My thoughts

Ever since I finished The Solitaire Mystery, a book which I absolutely and completely adore, I was on the look-out for this much-raved about The Orange Girl. As the fates would have it, the library never had it on its shelves. Until my last visit.

The book in one sentence: In a letter to his son, a young man, the now-dead father sheds light and much to ruminate on on the mystery of life, of love, and of living life despite the inevitability of mortality.


I am now officially in love with Gaarder. This book deserves a place on my shelf of keepers. It is something I would recommend for my mother to read, as well as my daughter when she grows up a bit.

A dead father's letter finally makes it into the hands of his now-15-year-old son, Georg, after 11 long years of being hidden and unread. This touching letter of a dead father to his son, is on living, on falling in love, and in keeping a sense of wonder about one's self in even the most mundane. It starts out as a mystery to be unravelled of an Orange Girl (a girl who his father meets in his youth, yes, carrying a bag of oranges) ... you wonder who she is .. until you realize that this actually is the re-telling of the boy's parent's love story. It is so lovingly told, with the father's story slowly melded with the son's own story. It poses some very real even intimate, and hard to answer, philosophical questions about living.

This got me all sentimental and thinking about my own love story, my parents' love story, and even of my grandparents'. These are stories, nay, legacies, that need to told and retold to our children and grandchildren. I remember the many times I've sat with my grandparents and how they'd start on with stories of the past. I used to find it annoying as a young child, dismissing it as adult blabber (how uncool). But when I too started my own family and my grandparents were getting older, I listened quite intently even writing down key things just so I had some documentation of their lives together.

I love how Georg realizes just how human his parents are. We all grow up viewing our parents as infallible and overly idealized. But with time comes wisdom, and human is as human does.

The Hubble Telescope? Where does this come in? I think that it is a simple allegory that despite all the technological advances in this world, no one can ever know or see everything. That little bit of mystery in life makes for much more interesting living.

First line: My dad died eleven years ago.

Last line: Lucky you!

Verdict: A beautiful love story to be savoured and re-read over and over again. I'm going to get my own copy, and I'm now ready for The Orange Girl (the movie) and  Sophie's World!


  1. I so so loved Sophie's World, and am hunting down the hardback copy of it so that I have it on my shelves. I've not read this one, but it does sound very interesting. I've also got Through a Glass Darkly by Gaarder that I have yet to read. =)

    *sending virtual nudges to urge you to read Sophie's World*

  2. I've read most of Jostein Gaarder's work starting from Sophie's World onwards. He was a favorite back then and I had at least five of his books which ended up fodder for termites when my shelves were attacked. I stopped buying him after Maya, which I never got around to finishing. Termites, you see.

    Your review made me want to get this book and savor the story again from my once favorite author :)

  3. Michelle, I've only read 2 Gaarders so far. Am definitely taking you up on that nudge of yours. :)

    Lightheaded, five books to the termites is a huge pity. What else have you read?

  4. I loved Orange Girl -- it's the most readable Gaarder for me so far (I've read Sophie's World, Solitaire Mystery, and Christmas Mystery).

    There's a movie?!?

    I can't wait!

  5. This sounds wonderful! Thank you for the review. I will definitely check it out. :)


© guiltless readingMaira Gall