A NovelBook - 2009
THE GILLER PRIZE-WINNING NOVEL BY JOHANNA SKIBSRUD.
Haunted by the vivid horrors of the Vietnam War, exhausted from years spent battling his memories, Napoleon Haskell leaves his North Dakota trailer and moves to Canada.
He retreats to a small Ontario town where Henry, the father of his fallen Vietnam comrade, has a home on the shore of a man-made lake. Under the water is the wreckage of what was once the town -- and the home where Henry was raised.
When Napoleon's daughter arrives, fleeing troubles of her own, she finds her father in the dark twilight of his life, and rapidly slipping into senility. With love and insatiable curiosity, she devotes herself to learning the truth about his life; and through the fog, Napoleon's past begins to emerge.
Lyrical and riveting, The Sentimentalists is a story of what lies beneath the surface of everyday life, and of the commanding power of the past. Johanna Skibsrud's first novel marks the debut of a powerful new voice in Canadian fiction.
From the critics
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The Sentimentalists portrays the relationship between a woman and her dying father. Portrayed as charming, tenderhearted, gruff, but well intentioned, Napoleon, the father, seems haunted by his experiences during the Vietnam war. The unnamed narrator describes several projects that he begins with enthusiasm, but, unable to complete, ultimately gives them away. By giving these objects away, the daughter wonders what he might be depriving himself and his family of?
Having abandoning her job and live-in boyfriend, the narrator returns to the only place that feels stable, the home of her father's friend Henry. And it is at Henry's place in Canada that she and her sister settle their father when he can't look after himself. Much of the book is spent here, a small town that was moved after the valley was flooded. The narrator often boats on the new lake looking for remnants of old farm buildings, wondering and exploring "what defines a person's life"? Is it what we remember? Is it what has happened to us? Is it the stories we tell others about ourselves? Or what we have dreamed? What our intentions were? Ultimately, after exploring Napoleon's war stories, she accepts that she loves her father unconditionally. A novel of thoughts and impressions.
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