- Paperback: 272 pages
- Publisher: Vintage (4 Aug. 2011)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0099548674
- ISBN-13: 978-0099548676
- Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 1.8 x 19.8 cm
- Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,357,534 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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"Exceptional... more than simply an exercise in chilling atmospherics... Chapman takes the women's - often seemingly petty - hopes and fears, and creates a fascinating portrait of group consciousness. A psychologically unnerving, elusive and readable book" (Financial Times)
"A gem; weird, vivid and acrobatic, its intricacies are sophisticated, its stance beguiling and complex. This is a writer of real power and aplomb" (Lucy Ellmann Guardian)
"This scary, peculiar story of institutionalised women is immaculately handled and builds to a disturbing but inevitable climax" (The Times)
"A beautiful, edgy and captivating novel" (Victoria Moore Daily Mail)
"An eerily brilliant, psychologically sharp take on the Bacchae set in a 1920s Finnish sanatorium" (Adrian Turpin Herald, Christmas round up)
A brilliant and unnerving debut novel about the mysteriously ill patients at a remote hospital in Finland.See all Product Description
Top Customer Reviews
Gradually, the lives of the women and their difficulties unfold--many are friends from previous stays. Dr. Peter Weber, the physician in charge of the hospital, believes that most of their problems are gynecological, and he is developing a surgical stitch which he believes will cure some of their problems. This, in combination with hysterectomy, may lead him to fame, he believes-if he can get his research completed in this rural hospital. It is his surgery on one of the women which leads to the climax and the long denouement, as the conflicts demand resolution.
In several places throughout this debut novel, author Maile Chapman refers to the action of Euripedes' The Bacchae, and though the parallels between that early Greek play and this contemporary novel are not exact, many of the themes become clearer when considered in view of that play.Read more ›
However, that said, there is less and less the further you go into the book. There is little arc to characters that are superficially absorbing, but subsequently turn out to have little beyond the surface. In fact, this accusation could be levelled at the whole book. It is superficially fascinating, but there is not enough substance below the surface to sustain it. Undoubtedly, Chapman is well-versed in what she writes about, but it seems she has a limited idea of what to write; various threads are started but not completed, various layers to characters are hinted at but not pursued.
Ultimately, this is a book to be initially admired but never loved - there is not enough by the end to feel you have either gained insight, or gone on an emotional journey of any kind. What remains, then, is well-written but ultimately slight.
Chapman can clearly write. She has a talent for creating atmosphere, evoking the elements and the seasons. She is not afraid to people her novel with unsympathetic characters.
However I don't feel that I want to explore any other books she goes on to write.
There were only a couple of sections where the unremitting greyness of the novel is pierced by bold colour - and they both involved blood. That vivid redness comes as such a shock to the reader that the writing of these paragraphs lingers in the mind.
Perhaps the subject matter put me off - it shouldn't but, as a male reader, I do not have the necessary insight into the female condition for the subject to resonate immediately. This is not to say this is a book just for women - but a male reader may have to work harder to fully engage with it.
Chapman is someone to watch - but I have to say that I will not rush to buy her second novel.
I finished this a week ago, and it has returned to my mind several times since then, but I am still not entirely sure what happened. Much is hinted at, most things remain either unresolved or for the imagination of the reader to finish. In some novels this works perfectly. In this one I just felt there was too much going on and not enough that was concrete to pin anything down satisfactorily.
I really wanted to love this book. There were many things about it I did love. I thought the characterisation was strong, and the characters were intriguing, the writing style was lyrical and beautiful and the contrast between the natural world that surrounds the sanatorium and the unnatural world fostered within the walls was delicately handled and gave the novel a real edge. On the other hand I cannot say it was a complete success.
I do however look forward to reading whatever she comes up with next.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Suvanto is a sanatorium/hospital in Finland, set sometime in the 1920s. The story is focused on Suvanto’s upper floor patients - mostly bored middle-aged women with no major... Read morePublished on 21 Oct. 2014 by Douglas Kemp
...but this was one of them. It takes forever to build up any kind of interest in the plot. I ploughed through this book and gave up 3/4 of the way through. Read morePublished on 13 Mar. 2013 by Birdnerd
I agree with Mary Whipple (I often do!) - the plot is most interesting, and Maile Chapman's style is beguiling; I found myself reading more carefully than usual. Read morePublished on 2 Dec. 2011 by Krystina Divila
I enjoyed this book as it is about the life of an institution and about the relationship of those within it. Read morePublished on 9 Feb. 2011 by Lucinda Stern