Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Book Review: Seal Woman

Here's the first of my three reviews in this month's Historical Novels Review.

SEAL WOMAN

Solveig Eggers, Ghost Road Press, $19.95, pb, 283pp, 0-9796255-3-x

A Historical Novels Review Editor's Choice

Berlin, 1947. The Icelandic Agricultural Association advertises for “strong women who can cook and do farm work,” and artist Charlotte, who has watched her life and her city crumble around her, agrees to work at a farm called Dark Castle.

SEAL WOMAN is, at its core, about the stories we tell ourselves about ourselves, and our lives. What is real, and what is myth? After almost incomprehensible pain and loss, how does one go on?

Impressionistic and mythic in the Iceland-based sections, and all too real and present in the Berlin-based sections, the settings – both time and place – are beautifully rendered. The characters, particularly Charlotte, are very real, and every bit as frustrating and messy as real people. I caught myself more than once thinking I was reading the biography of a mid-20th century war survivor.

But as fascinating as the story and the characters are, the writing itself is gorgeous – many passages so lovely, I wanted to underline them and commit them to memory so I’d never forget their lyric beauty. Overall, a challenging book on many levels – and very rewarding. A fantastic story, beautifully written. Highly recommended.

1 comment:

  1. It's a heck of a book, isn't it? Three months later and its story is still on my mind...and I really can't say that about very many books.

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