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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Spellbinding novel
This is a story about a scientist, Bigelow, who builds a weather observatory in Ancorage in 1915. He falls for a native woman and becomes obsessed by her. Without spoiling the story it really is beautifully written and it made me realize how powerful silence can be - the Aleut woman comes alive in the book - you could almost feel the longing that Bigelow has for her. I...
Published on 1 Dec. 2002 by elainefp

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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Icy, dark novel about imbalances between men and women and between love and lost
This is a bleak and interesting book. It isn't a "love story" in the conventional sense, though on one level it could be read as such. It's set in Anchorage, on the South side of Alaska, in 1915, and the lead character Bigelow is a scientist in the early days of meteorology. He arrives in Anchorage with an epic science project to undertake, and while the weather plays a...
Published on 25 May 2007 by Mr. Stuart Bruce


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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Spellbinding novel, 1 Dec. 2002
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This review is from: The Seal Wife (Paperback)
This is a story about a scientist, Bigelow, who builds a weather observatory in Ancorage in 1915. He falls for a native woman and becomes obsessed by her. Without spoiling the story it really is beautifully written and it made me realize how powerful silence can be - the Aleut woman comes alive in the book - you could almost feel the longing that Bigelow has for her. I liked the research that Harrison had done regarding the weather testing equipment/readings. At times I felt that I was observing Bigelow, following his every move and feeling his deepest desires. After you finish this book you'll still think about it.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderfully evocative, 28 Dec. 2007
This review is from: The Seal Wife (Paperback)
A beautifully written story set in Anchorage, Alaska during the days after the government land auction. The novel is subtle yet gripping, and descriptions of both the beauty and misery of the weather and the newly growing town feel utterly real. And although written from the point of view of an (obsessed?) young man, I personally thought it was also very romantic, with the details of the silence of 'the woman' beautiful. loved it!
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Icy, dark novel about imbalances between men and women and between love and lost, 25 May 2007
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Mr. Stuart Bruce "DonQuibeats" (Cardiff, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Seal Wife (Paperback)
This is a bleak and interesting book. It isn't a "love story" in the conventional sense, though on one level it could be read as such. It's set in Anchorage, on the South side of Alaska, in 1915, and the lead character Bigelow is a scientist in the early days of meteorology. He arrives in Anchorage with an epic science project to undertake, and while the weather plays a part in the story, the real point is Bigelow's sexual desire. Even in 1915 men still had lust, and in an isolated small town, what is a young single man to do? In the end he encounters three key women, two of whom are completely mute throughout the whole book, for different reasons- and one woman who he ends up paying *not* to talk. In a traditional love story, one of these women would obviously be 'the right fit' for him- and yet in this book, as in life usually, things are not so simple.

Where this novel really excels is in drawing us into trying to read the mute women's minds. Back in 1915 women were still to be seen and not heard and this novel takes that to an extreme, with fascinating results.

The narrative of Bigelow is so frank and open, coldly recounting anything from his weather readings to his sexual desires, that you are also challenged to see whether you can still see Bigelow kindly as a victim of circumstance even when all his intents are laid bare. Is he evil for taking advantage of these women without knowing more about them? Does he try hard enough to get them to talk?

It's a thought-provoking if relatively short and dark novel.
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3.0 out of 5 stars seal, 11 April 2014
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B. Kilby - See all my reviews
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not what I call a good read took a lot of getting inmto. But might give it another good when I have finished all my other books
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6 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Love in a cold climate, 1 Mar. 2004
By A Customer
This review is from: The Seal Wife (Paperback)
Kathryn Harrison's style is poetic and contained - almost selfconsciously so, actually. But that is perhaps an unfair observation when the result is so haunting. It's like seeing a miniature world reflected in a shard of ice - hey, Kathryn seems to have inspired me to be lyrical as well! That can't be a bad thing.

The sleeve of the book talk about "sexual obsession", which sounds rather dark and menacing - but the story itself seemed to be about redemption and maybe even love. I suppose the enigmatic style means you can read it either way you want to. Isn't it quite satisfying when authors allow you to decide for yourself?
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3 of 7 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A Missed Opportunity, 5 Oct. 2002
This review is from: The Seal Wife (Paperback)
A story of obsession, centring on Bigelow, a meteorologist working for the US Weather Bureau. Set in Anchorage, Alaska at the time of 1st World War, the book fails to maximise the setting or the times. I would have liked to be told more about Anchorage in the 1910s and how it was affected by the outbreak of the war. Instead the book is obsessed with obsession. Whilst the story keeps ticking over and the style is easy to read, this slow introspective story only really observes Bigelow and his obsession for the 'seal wife' - it makes little attempt to explain it. The end result is somewhat disappointing.
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5 of 11 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Rather empty really...and a bit wierd, 23 Mar. 2003
This review is from: The Seal Wife (Paperback)
Michael falls in love with a local Inuit woman whilst working on a meteorological project in Alaska during the First World War.
Or...Michael is merely sexually obsessed and is stalking a local Inuit woman whilst working on a meteorological project in Alaska during the First World War.
Why Kathryn Harrison chose to write such a collected narrative in the style of a 19th century pseudo erotic 'bodice ripper' I do not know. The conduct and emotional journey of her protagonist have the potential for a sincere and tender exploration of human depths, which Harrison fails to reach. Why? Perhaps her objective was to write from the male perspective and so to contain the wants of the realtionship within his own bodily and sexual confines. Indeed if this is the case then she succeeds. The clipped and tangible prose is remarkably masculine in essence and despite the language of sexual cliche the style is sporadically executed with an unmistakable tenderness and grace.
The scene with the kite and the painstaking genius it took for Michael to attempt it's first flight is a glorious moment, but unfortunately this level of inspirational imagery, passion and enchantment is not sustained in Harrison's prose.
This novel was nearly a pleasure, but the cold of the Alaskan landscape twinned with anti-social desires of an introverted and selfish lover is too much for the average sentimental soul.
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0 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars THE SEAL WIFE, 9 Nov. 2009
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A. RUSSELL (ENGLAND) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Seal Wife (Paperback)
i LOOKED FORWARD TO THIS BOOK AFTER READING REVIEWS, PERHAPS I EXPECTED TO MUCH AND I ENDED UP RATHER DISSAPOINTED WITH WHAT I FOUND TO BE A RATHER STRANGE STORY LINE.
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The Seal Wife
The Seal Wife by Kathryn Harrison (Paperback - 5 Aug. 2002)
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