Skip to content

Ronja lives in central Olso with her father and older sister Melissa. Christmas is around the corner, and their father is once again out of a job. When Ronja, with a little help from the janitor at her school, helps him get a job selling Christmas trees, it looks like their luck has turned. Suddenly the fridge is stacked full and their warm and loving dreamer of a father smells of pine needles instead of beer. But the local pub Stargate has a stronger pull on him than his daughters’ wellbeing, and when dad disappears into the night under the pretense of buying Christmas gifts, Ronja and Melissa know where he has actually gone. In order to keep the social services at bay, the girls are forced to fend for themselves. If he won’t sell Christmas trees, they will do it for him. Then help comes in the shape of three wise men, a bright star, and a forest to protect them.

Brightly Shining is a tale about a father who does his best but not enough, about a sister who tries to fill his shoes, and a daughter who never stops hoping. It is about the reality of addiction but also the power of dreams and believing in the kindness of strangers. With an unfaltering loyalty to the child’s perspective, Norwegian cult writer Ingvild H. Rishøi gives us the world through the eyes of her unforgettable young protagonist Ronja: naïve yet pragmatic, hopeful yet dark.

With her sparse yet dazzling prose and unflinching social pathos, Ingvild H. Rishøi has been compared to Astrid Lindgren, H.C. Andersen and Charles Dickens. Published simultaneously in Norway, Sweden and Denmark in the winter of 2021, it was instantly deemed a modern classic. Brightly Shining is a wonderous masterpiece, a Christmas story for our time where hope and magic are woven into the fabric of a painful narrative that shows our society at its most vulnerable.

Extra Materials

Stargate-757x1024 Denmark, Batzer & Co.
Skärmavbild 2022-12-06 kl. 13.31.43 France, Mercure de France
csm_9783832182144_7eb406a4fc Germany, DuMont
Skärmavbild 2022-12-06 kl. 13.51.37 Netherlands, Koppernik
cover1__w600 Russia, AST
hviezdna_brana_cover_screen Slovakia, Tatran
Skärmavbild 2022-12-28 kl. 13.26.35 Sweden, Flo Förlag
Skärmavbild 2023-01-30 kl. 13.36.10 Spain, Galaxia Gutenberg
Skärmavbild 2024-01-03 kl. 10.52.01 Estonia, Tänapëv


“Ingvild H. Rishøi creates distinct yet multifaceted characters. The protagonist Ronja is truly precious but it’s not only her that we are taken by as the story unfolds. /…/ A vivid story inducing laughter and tears, indignation and class-consciousness and, not least, a major dose of Christmas spirit.”
Adresseavisen (NO)

“The theme is darker than November, but Rishøi writes with poetic ease, warmth and humor. She tells the story from a child’s perspective, and we understand exactly what Ronja feels when she spots her father across the schoolyard. /…/ There are no redundant words here. The sentences shimmer, holding a power of their own. The Brage Jury compare her to Charles Dickens and H.C. Andersen, but Brightly Shining is not a modern retelling of The Little Match Girl. It is it something completely unique: a vulnerable – and magical! – Christmas tale, touching and gripping, a novel that should be underneath all Christmas trees. Sometimes it can be nice to view life from a slightly different angle.”
DN Magasinet (NO)

“[…] There is still a need for secular gospels adapted to our time and social conditions. Brightly Shining deserves to be read by many, preferably annually, when the Christmas season approaches.”

“Ingvild H. Rishøi performs an extraordinary balancing act with the novella Brightly Shining. Through ten-year-old Ronja’s eyes, the author portrays a tragic upbringing – but with the help of Ronja’s lively imagination she succeeds in turning the novel into a magical Christmas story. /…/ With Brightly Shining, she impresses again.”
Dagbladet (NO)

“Magical, tragic and realistic. There is simply nothing to complain about in Rishøi’s debut novel. Brightly Shining is a beautiful tale about Christmas, love, and hope, that will have you reaching for both tissues and gingerbread cookies.”
Bok365 (NO)

Brightly Shining is a timeless Christmas tale that lingers. It is a painful, but also hopeful, cozy, and magical novel. It’s about having faith in the good in us, and seeing those who need someone, maybe especially now in time for Christmas. Those who don’t have 20 guests to invite for Christmas, or who can’t afford ribs. My new tradition will be to read this as the nights become longer. Because even when it’s at its darkest, the hope and the light are never far away.”
DN Magasinet (NO)

“Ingvild H. Rishøi’s Brightly Shining only takes a couple of hours to read, but it is probably going to stay with me for the rest of my life. The novel is a magnificently beautiful story, at the intersection between Astrid Lindgren and H.C. Andersen, yes, it’s in the same league as the absolute best that has been written in Nordic literature. Whoever does not allow themselves to be touched by this text is a stone. I am not stone.”
FriFagbevegelse (NO)

“Rishøi writes in an oral, natural style, that she has perfected in her short stories. Every sentence is thoughtful. The novel is subtle, smart, hopeful and sad, with a healthy dose of wisdom and an ending that opens up for the light. Even though it is about neglect, the child’s hope and optimism is at its core. Is this a novel that is solely for adults? No, it is a book that suits everyone from the age of ten to 120.”

“Brightly Shining is everything a Christmas story should be. Stars and blizzards. Lucia and gingerbread cookies. Humor, hope and joy. Real Christmas magic, in wonderful dazzling language. Just remember the tissues when you read.”
Dagsavisen (NO)

Brightly Shining is an incredibly strong sibling portrayal, which leaves a lasting impression on the reader.”
Klassekampen (NO)

“This is such a beautiful story, carried by Ingvild H. Rishøi’s distinctive language.”
Tara (NO)

“A thin little novel of 148 pages with content as heavy as lead. The portrayal of two sisters’ attempts to survive Christmas is masterful, inescapable and deeply moving.”
Aftonbladet (SE)

“[The book] looks so thin and innocent, very beautiful. But it’s a real sucker punch. I read until it ended, there were no other options. Little Norwegian Ronja tell us about her life, which she has decided to get through. If only dad gets a job, if only dad keeps his job, if only dad avoids getting stuck at the Stargate pub. Big sister Melissa’s hope is weaker, but she doesn’t give up. Who can afford to do that? A story from Oslo that few of us are familiar with.”
DN Kultur (SE)

“Ingvild H. Rishøi doesn’t lose control for even a second. Her reins are tight, the words are exactly where they ought to be, the author keeps the story close to herself and feeds it with what little is needed for it to grow in a pace that makes you receive it almost organically. Rishøi makes her vulnerable and tender Christmas story grow into the reader and take place there with ease.”
Dagens Nyheter (SE)

Brightly Shining has, with its finetuned and striking meditation on the sparkling Christmas dream –  and for many icy reality­ – all the makings of a modern classic in its genre. Rishøi makes Ronja and Melissa timeless heroes in their search for a Christmas where the adult world’s ruthlessness, chaos and short-lived sparks of benevolence no longer set the limits.”
Expressen (SE)

“The many references, not only to the world of children’s books but also biblical stories, could easily weigh down such a short story as Brightly Shining, but they never do. Ingvild H. Rishøi doesn’t let anything stand in the way of the story about Ronja and Melissa, a story she tells with the utmost gravity and warmth, and with a language that is so paired down and life-adjacent in every single sentence. /…/ Brightly Shining is not only one of the most captivating reads this year, but also the most heartfelt Christmas novel I’ve come across. Magical – and dark as night.”
Svenska Dagbladet (SE)

“I am not going to be ashamed to say that I cried like a child, or rather just like an adult woman, when I read Ingvild Rishøi’s Brightly Shining, because it is in every true sense of the word, fabulous.”
Babel SVT (SE)

Brightly Shining is this year’s great Christmas tale – Ingvild H. Rishøi is a new Astrid Lindgren. /…/ If you want to do Christmas, the real Christmas, justice, then this is the book you should read.”
Uppsala Nya Tidning (SE)

“Rishøi is as always class conscious and thorough in her portrayal of the lives of vulnerable people in modern Norway. /…/ The reader may think that the pattern is just weaved into the bland colors of predictability, but no! Ingvild Rishøi is not only a magician but also a humorist. Ronja admits in her heart that not all of her father’s jobs have been successful ‘…when he was a poet and wrote that thoughts were like trapped eels and sold his poems outside Narvesen, that I didn’t love.’ Still, the family’s poetic spirit exists strongly throughout the whole story, like the reoccurring vision of a cabin and the snowy path they each must tread. /…/ Like small poetic points of reference, magical steppingstones or Hansel and Gretel’s pebbles, scattered through the story.”
Politiken (DK)

“Notice the small word ‘but’. It is one of the almost invisible refinements that the Norwegian author Ingvild H. Rishøi uses in her novel Brightly Shining. /…/ That ‘but’ contains a whole world. Or rather: Here it capsizes. Just as the children’s lives do when everything turns upside down and when all they’ve built is torn down. /…/ An amazingly beautiful story about an alcoholic father and his two daughters during the days leading up to Christmas. And if it sounds sad then it is sad. But that sorrow and the ‘buts’ are there, but it is also the complete opposite. Love and ‘and’s’. Because roses grow in valleys. And if there is anyone who can pick flowers from the bottom shelf it is Ingvild H. Rishøi. The author knows her reality. She knows that Stargate is the way both to heaven and hell. It is precisely that socially clairvoyant realism that is Ingvild H. Rishøi’s brand. And not the least her ability to conjure the miracle from it. Look, it is a real Christmas tale, one that can be told all year around.”
Kristeligt Dagblad (DK)

“This small, easily read novel is completely loveable as well. /…/ This is not a hallelujah story, fortunately, and Ingvild H. Rishøi’s writing is beautiful and poetic, but with a luring unsentimental brutality just beneath the surface.”
Weekendavisen (DK)

“[Ingvild Rishøi] has an unmistakable talent for conveying a lot with very few words. Meanings and feelings flow quietly between the lines and involves the reader to interpret the text for themselves. Does the [Norweigan] title  Stargate refer to the father’s favorite pub, or is it the way to the stars? This story settles well and thoroughly in its reader and stays there. In any case, I’m left with a lump in my throat and a moved heart.”
Litteratursiden (DK)

Brightly Shining is simply the most heartbreaking Christmas story. /…/ Ingvild H. Rishøi’s social realistic style is ingenious. With very few words, very few thin strokes and ultra-short dialogues, she succeeds in portraying Ronja’s inner emotions, so that you can feel her anxious anticipation, her nagging observations of the father’s fluctuating behavior and her overloaded emotions down to her outermost nerve ending.”
Jyllands-Posten (DK)

“In this seemingly simple and direct story, where also the older sister Melissa plays an important role, the author portrays from Ronja’s perspective, a childhood and a family doomed to be vulnerable, where children have to grow up faster than they should, cope without their parents and even take care of them. A captivating and touching novel, sad and full of kindness, that does good and hurts, but above all it has you in its grip from the first to the last page. And those who rarely cry when they read, will have a hard time not to.”
Hola! (ES)

“Brightly Shining, which is not only the title of the novel but also the pub where the father goes to get drunk, tells the whole story from a child’s perspective, but with all the complexity and intensity of the problems, happiness’ and disappointments that the adult world holds.”
Menorca (ES)

“A beautiful contemporary twist on the Christmas tale. /…/ The most important aspect of this novel is the voice. /…/ Don’t expect a disheartening book, but rather a brilliant one, even if it does make you cry.”
La Vanguardia (ES)

“With Brightly Shining, Norwegian Ingvild H. Rishøi has written a touching Christmas tale about the (dis)illusions of living with an alcoholic father. If you’re still looking for a gift at the end of the year to soften up the heart of relatives, you’ll surely be successful with Brightly Shining. /…/ The story is everything else than heavy and sentimental. /…/ Rishøi doesn’t need more than 150 pages to create memorable and deeply human characters that go straight to your heart. Her book could have become another comprehensive family novel, but its strength lies in its limitation. Ronja and Melissa’s story latches on to the reader’s mind. This book deserves a book club that thoroughly discusses the book’s style, symbolism, and layers.”
8Weekly (NL)

“A little miracle of literature.”
Les Echos (FR)

“The Norwegian short story author publishes a gripping debut novel, about two sisters who live alone with their loving but alcoholic father. In Brightly Shining the sadness is poignant, but the happiness even more so.”
Liberation (FR)

“In this first novel, the combination of not lapsing too much into sentimentality and the possibility for a miracle gives a warm dose of tenderness and poetry. As well as optimism.”
Arts Libre (BE)

“The childish yet brutal portrayal of Ronja’s father’s behavior and the consequences it has for the two daughters is heartbreaking. The worst thing is how brutally true it is. It is all too easy to imagine alcoholic parents as choleric monsters. Too often they are portrayed as such in various media. The truth often looks different. /…/ A very well-written book.”
Alliteratus (DE)

“It is a dreamlike, harrowing, truthful tale that alludes to The Little Match Girl. But there is hope. Like a match. Fantastic.”
Merkur (DE)

“A poetic, magical Christmas tale that has the potential of becoming a modern classic.”
Bücher Magazine (DE)

Brightly Shining is a Christmas story without the glaze and glitter. It is more reminiscent of the stories by Wolfdietrich Schnurre or Hans Fallada. But it is just this that makes it so special. Because at the end of the day it is Ronja, the smallest and weakest, that gives the reader back their hope and faith for a better life. A true Christmas story from real life.”
Delmenhorst Kreisblatt (DE)


“There is real magic in this charming novel about care, community, and the kindness of strangers. It is a deeply affecting story, beautifully told, that is sure to touch the hearts of many readers.”
—Douglas Stuart, Booker Prize-winning author of Shuggie Bain and Young Mungo

“Deceptively simple, deceptively innocent, told from the perspective of a bright-eyed, too-wise child, Brightly Shining has the power of a classic. You will read it in a single sitting, then carry it in your heart.”
—Claire Messud, author of This Strange Eventful History

Brightly Shining feels fresh as spruce needles and ancient as bedrock. The clear and hopeful voice of Ronja slips easily into your heart and takes up residence like a breathless memory, like a song of unbearable beauty. I want to read more Ingvild Rishøi, and the sooner the better.”
—Leif Enger, author of I Cheerfully Refuse

Paloma Agency is a boutique literary agency that represents Scandinavian writers at home and in the world.

Contact Us
Skip to navigation