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The Saskiad

3.67  ·  Rating details ·  473 ratings  ·  67 reviews
Longing to escape the rundown commune where she lives with her organic-farmer mother, assorted half-siblings, and a cow named Marilyn, the precociously well-read Saskia White, twelve, imagines herself as the noble contemporary of Odysseys, Marco Polo, and Horatio Hornblower. Saskia's elaborate fantasies are soon upstaged by her real-life, long-lost father, who leads Saskia ...more
Paperback, 380 pages
Published December 15th 1997 by Picador (first published 1996)
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Sophie Bonazoli I read it as a thirteen y/o, but it was pretty intense and sometimes disturbing. It is my favorite book, but I think it would be better if I was…moreI read it as a thirteen y/o, but it was pretty intense and sometimes disturbing. It is my favorite book, but I think it would be better if I was older.(less)

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Average rating 3.67  · 
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 ·  473 ratings  ·  67 reviews

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Dec 31, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

This is a novel that's all about story, which is as you might expect for a tale that bears so many subtle homages (most of which I through ignorance missed) to The Iliad. In the early chapters of the novel our 12-year-old heroine, Saskia -- growing up in what remains of a Long Island commune, presided over by her self-absorbed New Ager mother Lauren -- is so completely absorbed in her favourite books that her experience of life is at least half the time fantasticated almost beyond recognition.
Aug 16, 2012 added it
[What follows is my original review of this book, which I posted to (which was pretty new back then!) on July 22, 1997. I haven't re-read the book since then, but I remember writing this, and stand by the comments.]

I teach English to secondary school students, and started The Saskiad with high hopes, overjoyed at the prospect of being able to recommend it to students. However, as I read it, I became convinced that it is NOT an appropriate book for any but the most mature teenagers.

Nov 06, 2008 rated it it was amazing
After reading a bunch of reviews about how they as a reader would be horrified if teenagers/young people read this book, I feel like I should say that I first read this when I was 12 and I loved it. Adolescence is really tough and the writing felt truthful to that. I remember feeling so glad to have a character like Saskia that I both identified with and looked toward and I remember specifically thinking repeatedly, "Yes, that's exactly how I feel about that."

I sort of want to read this again,
Laura Wallace
Jun 11, 2007 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 1980s-and-90s
I love books that create their own language and don't try too hard to explain it to you, but just let you learn by immersion.
Richard Wu
Mar 14, 2016 rated it really liked it
“If there’s one thing Saskia knows, it’s that you absolutely do not blow the chance to buy a Mysterious Book That Comes From Who Knows Where.”-Page 127

How ironic. I found this book through an insightful blog, Winnowing Oar, which I found, in turn, through someone’s Facebook page.

I think it’s important that we read books we normally wouldn’t. For example, this novel largely centers around a precocious thirteen-year-old girl who daydreams about Homer’s Odyssey while living in what could be
saadia k
Jul 09, 2009 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: growing-up
This is one strange book. Absurd at times, pretentious throughout, great in theory and horrifying in reality. I couldn't stop envisioning Brian Hall (the author) writing the prose of 12-, 13-, and 14-year-old sexual awakenings (ever-present, might I add), particularly the parts wherein they intersect with older, mostly paternal figures. It gave me the heebie-jeebies, and it's not just because I'm a prude reader. There were moments when I thought: "Aha! If only the whole book could be like this" ...more
Cornelis Broekhof
Apr 15, 2011 rated it it was ok
I like the idea of the book: a twelve-year old girl coming of age in the real world (the real world of the novel, that is), while slipping into and out of her imaginary world of adventure, fantasy, heroes and heroines (with herself at the glorious center). It took me some time to get used to these different worlds and the way they interact. More importantly, the language of the 'real world', especially in the early chapters, is at times very difficult. Lots of rare words, lots of implicit ...more
Nov 10, 2009 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
I had to force myself to finish this because Hall created in Thomas one of the most loathsome characters in anything I've read recently (part of why I finished it was also that I hoped something terrible would happen to Thomas), but my extreme hatred of T. is a testament to Hall's writing. I was disappointed by how easily the other characters were deluded by Thomas and pitted against each other, but liked how Hall created the most likable characters pretty much only through Saskia's contempt for ...more
Jun 24, 2013 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: dnf
Abandoning this halfway through. I went camping for a whole week and only brought one book and I COULD NOT GET INTO THIS >< Grr. I managed to read about half of this, but it was just an odd, awkward book and I didn't like it. I found it strange how the author would go in and out of Saskia's fantasy world and back into the present moment, I never got used to that. I also felt so sad for Saskia and the younger children in the story for the manner in which they were being raised in the ...more
Aug 05, 2008 rated it it was ok
The synopsis of this book alludes to it being a young adult novel. I totally disagree. There are some themes in this book that are very complex and I don't think would be appropriate for anyone under the age of 18.

It was an okay story. The prose mixed with traditional writing, as well as the main characters fantasy worlds, can make it a little difficult to decipher what's going on. A large portion of the book can be summarized as "Running With Scissors" mixed with an Electra complex.
Sep 19, 2015 rated it it was ok
I hated this book and struggled to finish it. Yes, it's well written and a lovely-ish mix of mythology and coming of age in a counter-culture where you don't understand anything. But, I did not enjoy reading it, and I really can't think of many young adults who would relate to it or even care about this story if they could, in any way, relate.
Perrin Ireland
Oct 28, 2016 rated it really liked it
I will never forget writing Brian Hall a letter my freshman year of high school about the main male lead in this book, and him writing me back giving me a very kind schooling on what is appropriate male adult behavior and what isn't, via this character. I was like, oh. Thanks for that. I can't believe this dude I don't know just taught me that.
Sophie Bonazoli
Nov 14, 2016 rated it it was amazing
I read this book right before I turned 13, and it is one of my favorites. I love every word in it, and I don't even know why. It was a bit disturbing, but it was never crass, and even though it was written a good twenty years ago, the way Saskia moves through her life is so relatable. The text is messy and disorganized, and the subject jumps around, but I like the messiness. I like the sudden switch from calm, coasting, indifferent bliss to frantic losses and gains as Saskia fights for a ...more
Maddie Tiare
2.5 Stars. I’m sure there’s a lot more happening here than I picked up on. It’s about growing up and realizing that adults are imperfect and they lie and they make mistakes. Unfortunately, I just didn’t quite connect with it.
Feb 24, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The Saskiad is an extraordinary tale of fantasy and reality melded by a young girl’s awakening into adulthood. Saskia is a lonely outcast at her school. She lives on a commune and uses any free time that is not spent rearing the wild bunch of children that live there with her, idolising and reading about epic adventurers. In fact, after I’ve read Homer and Melville I will have to reread the novel just so that I can understand the countless references made to such classic writers and their genius ...more

The Saskiad is an extraordinary tale of fantasy and reality melded by a young girl’s awakening into adulthood. Saskia - said young girl - is a lonely outcast at her school, as she lives on a commune and uses any free time that is not spent rearing the wild bunch of children that live there with her, idolising and reading about epic adventurers. In fact, after I’ve read Homer and Melville I will have to reread the novel just so that I can understand the countless references made to such classic
Cynthia Rosi
Jun 04, 2014 rated it it was amazing
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Feb 25, 2009 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Elizabeth by: Amber Harding
Shelves: fiction, young-adult, 2009
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jun 22, 2009 rated it really liked it
Brian Hall does a superb job of writing the mind of an intellectual teen and the slow, painful transformation from a childlike understanding of the world to an adult perspective. I think most children weave the stories they hear or read into their own lives in order to understand themselves, which is what Saskia does, letting go more and more as she grows up.

Do you remember when you stopped being able to play "let's pretend" as a fluid extension of real life? This is what it means to cross from
Oct 08, 2007 rated it really liked it
The Saskiad is a female coming-of-age story about the precocious Saskia, a twelve year old who lives with her mother, several other adults, and numerous children in a commune-like house in upstate New York. Saskia is a voracious reader, and she describes her world as though she were living in an imaginary land. Saskia fancies herself a bit of an Odysseus, embarking on adventures, preventing mutinies, and trying to figure out answers to all her questions of identity. Then, out of the blue, ...more
May 10, 2011 rated it liked it
This was another book club book or I would never have read it. Almost didn't finish it, but gritted my teeth and skimmed like mad! It's the coming of age of a 12 year old girl who has brought up in a commune-like group of people with a mother who works, father who is absent, and assorted children. She seems to be in charge of running the house and children with little guidance from adults. She hates school and is unpopular. She's self-taught by voracious reading, manly classics, like "The Iliad" ...more
Mar 06, 2012 rated it liked it
I really enjoyed this book at the beginning. It is the story of Saskia, a 12-year-old girl who lives on a former commune outside Ithaca, NY. Though she chafes at the limited life of the farm and taking care of a "crew" of younger siblings, she leads a rich inner life with "imaginary friends" like Horatio Hornblower (The Captain), Tycho Brahe, and even the wily Odysseus himself. Then she meets Jane Singh. This lithe beauty brings a whiff of the outer world to the tiny town of Tyler. Jane and ...more
Nov 26, 2010 rated it it was amazing
I loved this book with it's complex combination of mythology, family mythology and fall out from the counter culture. Saskia is 12. Raised on a communal farm in rural New York, she rules the younger children with creative power, but is unable to understand her origins or fit in at middle school. Saskia meets a mysterious new girl at school. Together they embark on an adventure with Saskia's long lost father through Scandinavia to the Arctic Circle.
Saskia learns different 'truths' from her
Ronald Wise
Sep 08, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book was on the suggested reading list compiled by librarian Nancy Pearl for my NPR station, KUOW. A journey through adolescence by a nerdy girl whose only defense against teenage evil is her obsession with Danish astronomer Brahe Tycho and with Greek mythology. The history of the former commune on which she lives with her mother seems more obscure than the ancient objects of her obsession. She befriends the new girl in town, and together they embark on life-changing journeys of their own. ...more
Aug 07, 2012 rated it it was amazing
First book in a long time that I read SLOWLY. I am a very fast reader and also hard-of-seeing so this book was a physical challenge (it's printed in a rather pale font). The story was complex, the characters complicated. Hall drove me to Wikipedia to look up Tycho Brahe and to the dictionary to look up MANY words. This is the kind of book I enjoy because I learn about things I've never even heard of before. Saskia herself is alive from the very first page. Her curiosity is contagious and I can't ...more
Oct 23, 2008 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: ya
The style of this story is fascinating, with Saskia's Homerian daydreams influencing her experiences. She is growing up in the aftermath of a commune that had been dominated by a guru. She has a girl-crush on the new girl at school and they embark upon an intense friendship, but then the return of her father distracts her and twists events around. Her quest for the truth brings the story to many uncomfortable places. I almost gave the book up in disgust, but it was saved by the ending.
I actually give this 3.5 stars. I surprisingly liked this, considering it's a "coming of age", which I usually hate. The first half was awesome. The middle was kinda eh, mostly because I could care less about hiking and nature. The end was not surprising, but I was a little tired of Saskia's inside world of Tycho, Odysseus and Marco Polo.
forgot i read this too. long, long ago. i think i was 13? i don't remember anything else about it, except a girl is looking for her father or something. kids don't know how easy they have it these days with finding books to read for their age. there was no YA years ago, so you got stuck stumbling into shit that probably had no real appeal.
Feb 02, 2008 rated it did not like it
"....epic tale about the search for home and family in the life of a precocious young girl.She lives in a broken-down commune in rural NY. Saskia injects fantasy into reallife. She feasts with Odysseus, shares trading tips with Marco Polo, etc. "

Guess I just don't like fantasy mixed in with coming of age book about a young woman.
Minna Mäkinen
May 08, 2014 rated it it was amazing
I keep going back to this book every so often, the characters are so well written, even if the story at times shudders to a halt to indulge in Saskia's fantasy world. A different coming-of-age story with characters who aren't entirely relatable but certainly have captured my attention. I will keep reading this purely because I love this book.
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