• Title: The Sentimentalists
  • Author: Johanna Skibsrud
  • ISBN: 9781554470785
  • Page: 456
  • Format: Hardcover
  • The Sentimentalists Winner of Giller Prize Johanna Skibsrud s debut novel connects the flooding of an Ontario town the Vietnam War a trailer in North Dakota and an unfinished boat in Maine Parsing family history
    Winner of 2010 Giller Prize, Johanna Skibsrud s debut novel connects the flooding of an Ontario town, the Vietnam War, a trailer in North Dakota and an unfinished boat in Maine Parsing family history, worn childhood memories, and the palimpsest of old misunderstandings, Skibsrud s narrator maps her father s past.Napoleon Haskell lives with Henry in the town of Casablanca,Winner of 2010 Giller Prize, Johanna Skibsrud s debut novel connects the flooding of an Ontario town, the Vietnam War, a trailer in North Dakota and an unfinished boat in Maine Parsing family history, worn childhood memories, and the palimpsest of old misunderstandings, Skibsrud s narrator maps her father s past.Napoleon Haskell lives with Henry in the town of Casablanca, Ontario, on the shores of a man made lake beneath which lie the remains of the former town Henry is the father of Napoleon s friend Owen, who died fighting in Vietnam When her life comes apart, Napoleon s daughter retreats to Casablanca and is soon immersed in the complicated family stories that lurk below the surface of everyday life With its quiet mullings and lines from Bogart, The Sentimentalists captures a daughter s wrestling with a heady family mythology The real beginning of this story, says Skibsrud, was a summer that I spent working on Flagstaff lake, a lake that covers four now submerged townships in northern Maine, and served as the inspiration for the lake and the buried town in my book That fall, with the beginnings of a story in my head, my father began to speak for the first time about his experiences in the Vietnam War I am still not sure exactly why he told me his story when he did, but I think it had to do it was 2003 then with the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, which had been for some time stirring in him a deep anger toward a government willing to repeat the mistakes of the past at the expense of innocent people soldiers as well as civilians.My mother thinks that my father told me his stories because he knew that I would do something with them what I did write, though, was not my father s story, but my own And it is not a true story At its root, though, there are two true things One is my father s testimony following Operation Liberty II in 1967, in which he spoke out against the murder of a civilian woman by the Captain of his squad The other is the feeling I got floating over the buried towns of Flagstaff Lake a feeling of the way that everything exists in layers, that nothing disappears it just gets hidden sometimes.

    One Reply to “The Sentimentalists”

    1. I found the writing in this novel utterly exasperating. The sentences are convoluted, coiled together with endless commas and parentheses and semi-colons; fractured thoughts hammered roughly back together with an excess of punctuation. Never have I read such a short book so slowly. Moving through this text was like pushing through molasses, the structure and arrangement of words sucked at my eyeballs like quicksand. Many people seem to embrace the convoluted, disjointed language in this book bec [...]

    2. The writing in this book is absolutely beautiful, frequently poetic in describing the mundane. The story plays with time and place as the narrator attempts to piece together enough information to make it possible for her to understand her father. A number of devices run through the story, most notably a town that's underwater due to a river being dammed up, and a wooden boat that was decades in the making, as well as a strange and cobbled-together house that was the narrator's childhood home. Sk [...]

    3. This is the book that recently won Canada's highest-profile literary award, The Giller Prize. A furore followed the announcement that ‘The Sentimentalists’ had won surrounding the inability of the book’s small independent publisher, Gaspereau Press, to produce books fast enough to satisfy the demand. At the time the publisher, Andrew Steeves, said something to the effect that he doubted the wisdom of having just four people (the Giller judges) dictate what the majority should and would rea [...]

    4. Am I glad I read this book? Yes. Do I think there were moments of beautiful and poetic phrasing, as well as thoughtful introspection? Yes. Do I think the writing and story as a whole are worthy of the Giller? Not really. I think Skibsrud is going to be a very good writer. I think that her second and third efforts, if they make it to publication, will be books to read and savour. And I think that this, her first novel, would have benefitted a great deal from a stronger editing hand. It's easy to [...]

    5. I don't get the attention to this book. It is depressing depressing depressing, and there is no relief throughout. Everyone walks about not saying anything to anyone. In one of my "favorite" passages (well, it did make me snort with laugher), the narrator's sister stands up and says nothing to the narrator and the father, then walks to the door, pauses, and says nothing again. It's enough to make me want to scream, simply for some noise in the narrative.It all seems just a wee bit too precious f [...]

    6. Ugh. There are so many things wrong with this, but fortunately it was short.Goodness knows I like complex and interesting prose. At first, I thought "she's read too much Henry James." But had it been more like Henry James I might not have had such an objection. He puts clauses in the middle of sentences and sets them off with commas - proper punctuation, if you will. But this? There were sentences with several clauses set off by commas, which sometimes then had a semi-colon so that she could con [...]

    7. The talk of the publishing world. The darling about town from the little press that could. Such is the weight that Johanna Skibsrud’s debut novel has been saddled with since its unexpected Giller win back in November 2010. Against what some guessed were sure bets—Light Lifting and Annabel immediately spring to mind—this hand-crafted, small print run title surprised everybody, taking home the largest prize in the Canadian publishing industry.I managed to snag a copy of this, conveniently an [...]

    8. A horse, long of face, its hooves clattering on the cobbles that overlie the bones of settlers long dead, of child victims of diptheria and German measles, its long face hanging from the arch of its long neck, walks into a bar.And the bartender says, why so ineffably sad? This is a joke, as told by a poet-novelist. And The Sentimentalists is a novel, as told by a poet-novelist: over-written, over long even at a mere 216 pages, and, thanks to the Giller Prize, over-praised.It starts well. Skibsru [...]

    9. I agree with a number of other readers who have commented on their problems with Ms Skibsrud's style. At one point early on, I noted to myself that I'd never seen so many bleeding commas. I'm glad I persisted, however, because i found there was real power in the main narrative that focuses on the tragic circumstances of the father's experience in Vietnam. In those pages, much of the writing is more direct, and the gain in emotional power is significant. The knotty prose in other parts of the nov [...]

    10. I feel like I owe a pre-emptive apology to my book club. This was the book I picked for the next round of reads, as it was coming up on my list, and it was CanLit, and I figured, why not? I felt like Thomas Pynchon's Mason & Dixon, which I got out of the library at the same time, might be too much to ask. It's not coming around as a read until July, I think, and so, far in advance, I'd like to say "I'm so sorry." And also that we can change it if people want.Note: The rest of this review has [...]

    11. I, too, having had, in times past, the joy of putting pen to paper, love, although perhaps not as much as Skibsrub, but more than I found most editor's do, the kind of convoluted sentences that require a comma (or semicolon) every five, or so, words. If, at each literary stop, a new line were started (press ENTER here) it might be more readable--or more poemish. But no less story-like.

    12. I found the recent story about how this book took off, thanks to the "Giller Effect," a more interesting one than the novel itself.The storyline is disjointed with frequent shifts in time and place and tells mostly of a daughter’s (I don’t think I got her name) final visit with her alcoholic Vietnam veteran father, Napoleon, who is determined to kill himself by drinking. Napoleon has been at it for many years, drifting through multiple locations after deserting his young family, until he is [...]

    13. I enjoyed reading this book, although I'm uncertain about the ending and what purpose it serves. The first part of the book is narrated by a woman and tells the story of her father throughout her childhood and adulthood. He interacted strangely with her mother and her and her sister - although loving them, unable to communicate with them. He had fought in the Vietnam war, and after suffering a bad break-up, the narrator goes to live with her father to learn more about his experiences. He is disc [...]

    14. So far I'm having a really hard time reading this book.which is very diappointing because I was soo looking forward to spending my Christmas vacation getting lost in this award-winnerI am intrigued.I do want to know the story behind what I am reading.I just find it awkward and hard to followI keep having to go back and find out if this part is taking place in Canada or the Statesif this is taking place in the present or it's already happened and she's re-telling it or remembering it.but I don't [...]

    15. This is the third highly praised, award-winning, "literary" novel I've left unfinished this year. While it's clear that Skibsrud is talented, she's far too young to have earned the portentous, solemn, elegiac tone she strains for over and over in this badly organized book. In the first section the novel seems to begin a dozen times or more; each section starts the narrative again with a perfectly good first sentence. And each of these sections reads like a complete prose poem about a particular [...]

    16. I read The Sentimentalists because it won the Giller Prize.The theme that this very short book (~150 pages) explores of memories and the truth hiding below the surface is very intriguing, but hard to discern due to a few stylistic issues.The story was indeed "lyrical", if that means "teeming with commas". And once I noticed how nearly every sentence was slightly too long, with at least two or three distinct concepts it was hard to look past them for the big picture. Overall, the book could have [...]

    17. This Giller Prize winner was so extraordinarily bad I think I might have to write a full-length review. Struggling through the first 100 pages (described by some reviewers as lyrical but in fact hysterically over-written), I started to imagine William Shatner doing the audio book. Once that happened it was all downhill. The second segment was marginally better but is ruined by the third, the supposed 'testimony' of the main character, Napoleon Haskell. In which it is revealed that his syntax and [...]

    18. The Sentimentalists is a haunting, lyrical meditation on life, loss and memory. It poses the central question "can we ever really understand the past?" Skibsrud's poetry/prose hybrid writing style brings to mind that of Michael Ondaatje.There is no real plot to speak of in this slim volume, but the layers of thought and emotion that it evokes are more to the point. Skibsrud uses several devices to explore the nebulous nature of memory and knowing. The un-named narrator interacts with her father [...]

    19. This review first appeared on my blog: knittingandsundries/20The description gives a great idea of the plot, so I won't summarize it here.This novel won the Giller Prize in 2010, and was the Globe and Mail Top 100 Book in Canadian Fiction in 2010 as well.I will NOT use the trite, "I WANTED to like this book, but" line. I didn't want to like it; I expected to like it because of the awards it won, but I'm guessing that I would need to be more of an "intellectual" reader to do so. Although the desc [...]

    20. This book comes with an odd but alluring pedigree. Not only did it win the prestigious Giller Prize, Canada's top literary honor, it did so after being published by a "micropublisher," Gaspereau Press, who originally printed a whopping 800 copies of the book. The book took down many more commercially imposing titles to win an award that has previously gone to literary titans like Alice Munro and Margaret Atwood. After its win, it became a hot item on the Kobo ebook platform, and now W.W. Norton [...]

    21. This review will be brief, I think.I can't think of any way to discuss the book without revealing the "ending", so I'm not even going to try. I also didn't enjoy the book at all. There was a minute there where I thought I would. It didn't pan out. I don't think I'm going to be very nice about it.As near as I can tell, The Sentimentalists is the story of Napoleon Haskell, told through the eyes of his daughter Honey. For the first 80 or so pages nothing happens. There's a bunch of wordy, yet vague [...]

    22. Winner of the 2010 Scotiabank Giller Prize, arguably Canada's highest literary award, Johanna Skibsrud's The Sentimentalists made headlines, not just as a first novel but for having been effectively out of print when it won. Produced by a small literary press in Nova Scotia (Gaspereau), the only extant copies were printed letterpress and hand bound; only days before the award was announced, Kobo stepped in to facilitate distribution as an ebook. Skibsrud had previously had two volumes of poetry [...]

    23. Loud Raspberries for Johanna Skibsrud´s The Sentimentalists, winner of this year´s Giller Prize. (1) The Giller prize award for Canadian literary excellence has been given this year at best for quirky reasons be it the author’s unusual name, the boutique printing press - Gaspereau printing it or the fact that the committee consists of, believe it, just three people with their faddist tastes - Well, they have succeeded in at least scaring me away from any of their future recommendations. (2) [...]

    24. This story should have been set in a universe in the centre of a flower, or the centre of the earth or another planet, maybe one that doesn't even exist yet, or somewhere equally impossible and unlikely. There was nothing even remotely related to real life in this "novel". Each time something ordinary and concrete like computers, DVDs, the stock market, graduation photos, the grocery store, etc, was printed on the page it was JARRING AS HELL because the previous 8 pages would have been nothing b [...]

    25. It could be argued that anything written after 1918 is a war novel of sorts; after the devastation of WWI human consciousness seemed to change, and philosophies, thoughts, and worldviews were altered forever. As such, so much of 20th century lit has been made up of war novels, from the sublime Catch-22 to Ondaatje's English Patient. So the war novel has definitely been covered, not just in lit but in TV (M*A*S*H) and in film. The Sentimentalists hinges on one incident that happened to the narrat [...]

    26. Parts of the book I enjoyed other aspect were a little off putting, but overall the book was a fairly good book.One of the best aspects of the book was the writing. Something about the writing was what initially grabbed my attention, and what kept me reading. The quality of the writing and style very well done. The author easily creates a strong voice for the narrative which sets the tone throughout the entire book.I enjoyed the first half of the book more than the second half. Mostly because th [...]

    27. I couldn't get into this book at all. I only read to page 54 and it just wasn't holding it together for me and I had to return it to the library. I found the writing style really difficult to follow and disjointed. I'm no english major so excuse my limited knowledge of proper writing terminology and styles, but almost every other sentence in the book was a complex sentence. Example: this book, while it might have been interesting if I would have continued to read it and hadn't gotten distracted [...]

    28. I just finished reading the Sentimentalists and certainly cannot recommend it - The storyline is disjointed with frequent shifts in time and place and is about a daughter’s final visit with her alcoholic Vietnam veteran father, Napoleon, who is determined to kill himself by drinking. The base of the book is about a horrific incident in Vietnam (which is a true story) about the slaughter by Marines of unarmed Vietnamese women. Full of depression and guilt this is not a fun read. I found myself [...]

    29. I would have liked to give this book more stars especially as it won the Giller Prize this year. For me the first half of the book was very enjoyable. I liked the imagery and the unfolding of the story about the narrator's father and his unconventional relationship with his family. The second half of the book takes place at the lakeside home of a family friend in Ontario where the narrator questions her father about his role in the Vietnam War and what happened to his friend, Owen, who was also [...]

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