In 2009, on a poetry fellowship from Yale, the newly graduated Dinerstein traveled to Norway, settling in an art colony in Lofoten, an archipelago in the Arctic. “I grew up in Manhattan, in a really crowded environment,” she says. “Suddenly I had nobody around me. That solitude and that silence—and that really inspiring beauty of the landscape—led me to figure out a way of being productive.”
Dinerstein’s primary task while in Lofoten was to complete a book of poems (which she did), but she also found herself drawn to fiction. “I realized very quickly that you can’t write poems all day,” Dinerstein says, and she began The Sunlit Night (it would later become her M.F.A. thesis at NYU—she finished the first draft in 2013).
The Sunlit Night centers on two characters who meet in Lofoten. Yasha has traveled there to carry out his father’s wish to be buried “at the top of the world,” and Frances is fleeing a recent heartbreak. Lea Beresford, Dinerstein’s editor at Bloomsbury, says she was struck by the novel’s unusual setting. “It’s stunningly beautiful and something I am not at all familiar with,” she says. That, together with the novel’s “eccentricity” and realistic characters, made for what Beresford calls a “heated” auction. “When I found out I got it, I jumped,” she says.
Jennifer Ferrari-Adler, Dinerstein’s agent at Union Literary, compares The Sunlight Night to Frances Ha, the 2012 Noah Baumbach film, and toEverything Is Illuminated, by Jonathan Safran Foer (who taught Dinerstein at both Yale and NYU). “You have this lost, urban voice in Frances, who’s very funny,” Ferrari-Adler says. “Then you also have this Brighton Beach Russian immigrant [in Yasha].” Ferrari-Adler also cites the remote Norwegian location as one of the book’s charms. “I think it’s one of the big attractions of the book,” she says. “People seem to be having a special love for the Arctic these days.”