Beatifically poetic from beginning to end with only one poem at the very end. The Sentimentalists is brilliant in a subtle way.
Of course this novel caught my attention when I heard the news of it winning the ScotiaBank Giller Prize. What struck me even more was how young Canadian author Johanna Skibsrud was and that she spent time living very close to my home town. This, to me, was completely inspiring as a writer and confirmed the need to read this novel.
When I learned what it was about I hesitated, not being a history buff, but felt an obligation to read it and learn from it. Am I ever glad I did as the Frye Festival recently hosted Johanna Skibsrud and I was able to attend two of the events she was part of. I was very impressed with how polished she was, how open and honest and real.
What did bother me a little bit about this book was it’s long sentences and the authors lack of concern for using words other than “said” when it came to dialogue. I understood these were things to avoid when writing an award winning novel yet they were consistently injected within The Sentimentalists giving me pause in understanding what is technically great writing.
The Sentimentalists follows an unnamed daughter as she discovers more about her father than she thought she ever would. Centered around the horrific reality of buried towns and war, Skibsrud was inspired to write this tale when she canoed Flagstaff Lake in Maine, USA.
Shattered faith was symbolized with almost every scene while the main character, Napolean, both rejected and embraced the idea of trust and faith. But it was much more than a religious novel and maybe even not so much a religion novel all in the same story.
To sum it up Skibsrud the poem Simplify Me When I’m Dead by Keith Douglas which ends with:
Remember me when I am dead
and simplify me when I’m dead.
A must read for aspiring writer’s, readers, lover’s of war, appreciators of historical fiction and you!
Thanks for reading,
Sarah Butland author of Sending You Sammy, Brain Tales – Volume One and Arm Farm