Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Book Review: The Sentimentalists by Johanna Skibrub

Even before I started reading this book, I was inspired by it—or, more to the point, the story behind the book.

Gaspereau Press—a small Nova Scotian publishing house, released the first copies of this book. Author Johanna Skidsrud had a relationship with this press. They had published her poetry collection—Late Nights With Wild Cowboys—in 2008. But I don’t think Gaspereau Press was ready for the wild ride The Sentimentalists would take them on. The book won the Scotiabank Giller Prize, and then all of Canada wanted to read it. Gaspereau tried, but just wasn’t equipped for the challenge. So a larger press—Douglas & McIntyre—re-released it.

After hearing that story, I knew I had to read it. If only to have some of the lucky ink rub off on my author fingers.

My thoughts after reading…

Johanna Skidsrud has a unique writing style. Long, complex sentences are strung together, like clothing on a clothing line—a sleeve fondly caressing a pant leg.

Here are some of my favourite quotes…
“A lot of stuff just happens, you know, my little Honey, whether I personally believe in it or not.”

No matter how hard you try to understand someone something escapes.

A piece of you always remains after death.

The narrator gets to know her father, as we, the reader, do—slowly, very slowly from the outside in. Her father has never been able to live a normal life. He abandons his family. He throws his money away on unwise investments. He can’t even finish building his beloved boats. Unable to live life, he runs away from the United States to Canada. There he is taken care of by his friend Henry. It’s not until the end of the book that we see what has destroyed him to the core.