Robert Docking's Reviews > The Sentimentalists

The Sentimentalists by Johanna Skibsrud
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's review
Apr 20, 11

Read in April, 2011

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 novel, while reflecting the fractured, contingent and conflicted consciousness of the narrator, leaves this reader at something of a loss -- the father and his story are more engaging and the simpler prose gives more room for the reader to feel and imagine the emotional and spiritual consequences for the father and his family. I believe a less constricted telling would serve her and her characters better. But Ms Skibsrud is a real writer and I expect future novels will give greater expression to her talent.
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