Canadian Book Reviews The Sentimentalists

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photo: Aaron_McKenzie_Fraser-

Johanna Skibsrud’s Giller Prize winning novel, The Sentimentalists, is a journey that sometimes takes place between the lines. Skibsrud’s unnamed narrator takes the reader across time as she tries to reconnect with her troubled past and with her father, which has always been shrouded in secret.

From the beginning, the reader knows little about the narrator. Skibsrud weaves details from the past as she navigates the narrator through a trip back to Casablanca (save yourself some Mapquesting- this is a fictional town CP), Ontario, her hometown. Sparked by recent heartbreak, the narrator travels to Casablanca to spend time with her father in the twilight of his life.

Novels often have multiple cover styles- this one reflects the ‘hidden, not quite visible’ character of the narrator.

In what seems like an attempt to distract herself from her own problems, she devotes herself to finding out some truths about her father’s life before he slips away….forever. The reader never knows much about the narrator. This will be a test for those who like to know about the person who is telling the story. Never named, the narrator releases little information about herself, but a clear and exhaustive picture is painted of her father, Napolean.

[One of the best Woody Allen films- uses an imaginary-advice-giving-fedora-wearing character straight out of Casablanca as a narrative device CP]

Lyrically written, this novel can be a frustrating read at some points. It is full of beautiful passages and poetic imagery. However, at times, the reader may find themselves somewhat lost in the fog of the past and present blending together.

“Lost in the fog of the present and the past….” Lost in the fog – Mount Washington (NH, USA)

A haunting and promising debut, The Sentimentalists leaves the reader with something to think about. Although difficult at times, it is definitely worth sticking with until the end.

Johanna Skibsrud’s second release is a series of short stories called This Will be Difficult to Explain and Other Stories.  For the Silo, Sarah Purdy.

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