The Sentimentalists Paperback – Oct 1 2009
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"a solid debut and a beautiful tribute to a father-daughter relationship." (Globe and Mail 2010-10-15)
"Skibsrud knows what she’s doing: The slow fuse of the novel’s first half turns out to be a very effective setup for the explosive second." (National Post 2010-11-13)
"The writing here is trip-wire taut as the exploration of guilt, family and duty unfolds." (Giller Jury 2010-11-09)
"[Skibsrud's] book is an affirmation of why we still try -- why we still use words to reclaim history, to imagine another's pain, to hold onto what is human in the face of violence and chaos. The Sentimentalists may be profoundly sad, but Skibsrud also reminds us that sadness is not the same as hopelessness." (Winnipeg Review 2011-01-06)
"The Sentimentalists beautifully examines the profound affect memories can have not only on an individual, but on all those close to him...The poet's touch is evident throughout...Skibsrud approaches the English language more like an art form, and less like a science. Her carefully composed passages use a sort of philosophical prose to understanding her topics of memory...The Sentimentalists, with its poetic elegance, eloquently describes the never-ending struggle to remember, to simplify and to understand." (Critics at Large 2011-03-02)
"Napoleon Haskell's life has always been a mystery to his daughter -- he was a drifter, an alcoholic and an ex-marine who has never spoken about what happened one night in Vietnam. As he slips into senility, his daughter tries to pull together the crumbling fragments of his memory into a narrative that will explain their dysfunctional family." (More Magazine 2011-06-01)
"A hypnotic meditation on memory, it reaffirms the potential for storytelling to offer clarity and redemption." (Hirsh Sawhney New York Times 2011-07-01)
"This is less a novel with a single plot than the stories of three characters and their layered, intersecting identities...I recommend it for the book it is rather than the story it's become." (Geist 2011-07-01)
"This novel takes a quirky and lyrical look at the long-lasting effects of the Vietnam war on a family and their friends across both the American and Canadian borders." (Winnipeg Free Press 2011-08-13)
"...a slender but deeply contemplative novel..." (NOW Magazine 2011-10-20) --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.
About the Author
Johanna Skibsrud’s first poetry collection, Late Nights With Wild Cowboys, was published in 2008 by Gaspereau Press and was shortlisted for the Gerald Lampert Award. She has also published a novel with Gaspereau Press entitled The Sentimentalists. Originally from Scotsburn, Nova Scotia, she now lives in Montreal.
Top Customer Reviews
I've since read "The Matter With Morris", another contender, and it was a much more mature, solid entry and much more worth the reading time.
That said, it's worth a read, if only to give you hope that you, too, could win the Giller.
maybe I was expecting too much? I don't know...I find the story just didn't flow well...sentences were wayyyyyyyyy too long.
It felt like this (example): "so we went into the kitchen - which my father had built back in 1951 with some wood he had found at the bottom of a lake we used to always bathe in in the summer - and the heat from the sun had melted all the chocolate on the new oak table - which i assumed he left there on purpose - and I was wondering if my mother would find out, would she finally divorce him? " WHAT? I found myself loosing focus way too often to the
point where I just gave up.
Not to mention the NUMEROUS punctuation mistakes and grammar errors. Someone told me the publishing house ran out of stock so they had to rush
to get more printed...not sure if it's true, but it would explain the punctuation and grammar errors, but still...not excusable.
With respect to the novel's overall plot, I've read reviews where the reviewer praised the slow build to a big finish, but that wasn't my impression. The father's experiences in Vietnam are descibed in such vague terms (deliberately, of course) that it isn't really clear what took place or how these events subsequently influenced the rest of his life. That's not necessarily bad, as it does say something interesting about the nature of memory and about how we construct a narrative after something happens that may be linked to "what really happened" only indirectly. And about how hard a person's life is to figure out, let alone to describe in a novel. I just don't know how successfully this strategy was used in The Sentimentalists.
Overall, not a bad book at all, but I think the fact that it was awarded the Giller might say more about the people who made up the jury this year than it does about the book itself.
The book's plot was generally a home-run - you can't go wrong with a drunkard-yet-sweet father whose daughter tries to unearth his participation in the Vietnam war - but Skibsrud's execution was a little chaotic and lacking. I wanted more about Vietnam especially since it was such a pivotal piece of who the father was; why he did the things he did. This failure showed a weakness in Skibsrud's toolkit, one that will definitely improve as she continue publishing.
Would I recommend the book? I would recommend the first 105 pages, where Skibrud shines, using her talent to describe commonplace as anything but.
Most recent customer reviews
Sorry, but this book fell far short of my expectations for a great read. At best I would rank it 'okay.'Published on Nov. 15 2013 by margotchives
I should have read the reviews before picking up this novel. But I am glad I am not the only one who could not get throught this book. Read morePublished on Sept. 20 2013 by Toby
As I started reading "Sentimentalists," I peeked at some of the reader reviews (which I don't usually do) and was surprised at the low scores. Read morePublished on May 12 2013 by Chris
Given the award and the subject matter it should have been a breeze to read; but the use of the word "that" was overwhelming. Read morePublished on July 18 2012 by Hilary West
Scotiabank Giller Prize Winner in 2010
Haunted by the vivid horrors of the Vietnam War, exhausted from years spent battling his memories,... Read more
How this book won the Giller prize I will never know. Where to start with how awful this book is...
- the writing style is terrible. And I do mean terrible. Read more
In 2010 Johanna Skibsrud won the Scotiabank Giller Prize, the youngest author to date to take the coveted literary award, for her debut novel, The Sentimentalists. Read morePublished on Nov. 17 2011 by Lorina Stephens
I was so excited to read The Sentimentalists after all the press and I loved the friendliness that was happening in Canadian publishing because of Gaspereau press. Read morePublished on Oct. 24 2011 by SoAndSo