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Coming Up for Air

4.08  ·  Rating details ·  63 ratings  ·  44 reviews
Three extraordinary lives intertwine across oceans and centuries.

On the banks of the River Seine in 1899, a heartbroken young woman takes her final breath before plunging into the icy water. Although she does not know it, her decision will set in motion an astonishing chain of events. It will lead to 1950s Norway, where a grieving toymaker is on the cusp of a
Hardcover, 320 pages
Published March 19th 2020 by Doubleday (first published March 3rd 2020)
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Average rating 4.08  · 
Rating details
 ·  63 ratings  ·  44 reviews

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Amalia Gavea
''The Highlands is a melancholic place. The mountains are almost always hidden in mist and the tongues of blue that lick the sky are watery and fleeting, but there is a ballad to the landscape that exists in everything. In the wind, you can hear battle. The bog that sucks keenly at your boots has memory.''

Water has always fascinated the human race, with its unpredictable nature and mysticism. Water is the source of life, a wondrous barrier that separates and, at the same time, unites countries,
Mar 15, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Next time I go to update my CPR certificate I will look at the resuscitation dummy in a totally different way. Who knew that her face is derived from the death mask of an unknown suicide victim in Paris in 1899. Fact - and her fictional story is just part of this beautiful book.

Three stories are told in all, each loosely linked by the themes of water and drowning. As well as the imagined life of the beautiful French girl we read about a toymaker in Norway who, in the 1950's, used her death mask
Emer (A Little Haze)
Simply stunning.

This book takes three disparate stories all linked by a theme of water and drowning and somehow creates this beautifully moving narrative that I completely lost myself in as I was reading.

The book takes poetic licence with the story of L'Inconnue de la Seine who is an unidentified young woman whose body was pulled out of the River Seine in Paris around the 1880s. Her death mask became popular among artists and writers, and ultimately her face was used as the model for the face
Mar 14, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Coming Up for Air is Ms Leipcigars sophomore novel and is a masterfully crafted piece of historical fiction, inspired by a true story, that thematically links the lives of three people who had no idea of each others existence. Connected by water and breathing the narrative spans a century and begins in 1899 when an unidentified woman is pulled from the River Seine in Paris, France, having drowned after jumping in a successful suicide bid; she became known as LInconnue de la Seine. She was found ...more
More like a 2.5 I think? This just didn't grab me. RTC.
Mar 27, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
How to breathe. How to save. Everyone knows this face. Its always been her and it will always be.

I have been so moved by this novel. Though each of the storylines dealt with difficult situations there was always an underlining feeling of hope. I never found myself rushing through one story to get to the next, because they were equally engaging. I was really looking forward to seeing how the stories converged and think it was done remarkably well. Leipcigars writing was beautiful and I look
Coming up for air by Sarah Leipciger is three stories in one. The main one its 1899 of the banks of the River Seine a heartbroken woman jumps into icy river to her death which, causes a series of events later. A Toy maker in 1950 Norway near a breakthrough of invention that changes peoples lives and present-day Canada a journalist with Cistus Fibrosis is drowning in her own lungs and does everything to try and live.
Even though I found this book to be well written, I just got so annoyed that
Claire Fuller
Three fascinating and beautifully written lives that revolve round swimming, and come together with the mask of L'Inconnue - the woman who supposedly died in the Seine and whose death mask was used as the model for resuscitation dummies. Leipciger writes wonderfully about nature and especially wild swimming, and the details of people's lives. Tragic, moving and hopeful.

Thanks to the publisher for the proof.

Visit the locations in the novel

Theres not a book for a while that has moved me quite as much as this one. A book about drowning, needing to breath yet finding you cant, a story of surviving and existing rather than living.

It starts with the most stark image of all a woman who drowns on the banks of the Seine. Little do they know, but so many lives will be affected by this act and this woman, and what happens next. Stories told from 1899, 1950s and to the present day.

For what happened next is
Rob Twinem
Snow creates a wonderful setting and atmosphere and is particularly effective when applied to a horror story. This crisp souless, and silence stage needs little extra in the way of descriptions or characters....the silence says it all....

For the first 25% of Snowball the scene is set; a snowplough breaks down in the foulest of New Hampshire weather, leaving in its trail an asortment of abandoned vehicles. The occupants all regroup to recover in an RV, itself a casualty of the snowy conditions.
Mar 02, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Historical fiction entwined with fact. Three stories so beautifully written powerful and emotive. They span the years starting in 1899 to the present day. Each story is a little gem on its own. This book is pure gold. I have never read this author before and she is definitely one to watch. After reading this book I definitely had to come up for air. I was completely immersed, this book deserves more than five stars and so Highly Recommended.
Thanks to Random House UK and Netgalley for the ARC.
Susan Hampson
Mar 11, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: netgalley
Three lives of three people that never knew each other but are still connected with a theme. The story spans a hundred years and tragically begins in 1899 as a young woman plunges into the icy water of the River Seine to take her own life. She didn't know of course how famous her face would become. In real life, the identity of the young woman was never discovered but the author gives her a fictional life of what could have lead to her being unable to carry on. Her drowning is intimately ...more
Marie (UK)
I received an ARC copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. It is difficult to rate this book which has 3 viable and essentially interesting narratives but absolutely no connective tissue joining them. I struggled even to get through the text until I decided it just wasn't necessary to work out what the author was trying to say (because whatever it was she was making a complete hash of it), but simply to follow the disparate story lines. I understand the book is based on truth - my ...more
Andrea Hicks
Jan 29, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Thank you to Sarah Leipciger, Random House, and NetGalley for the ARC of Coming Up For Air.
Deeply moving and beautifully written. A stunning three part story linked by river water and an incredible sense of loss and rejuvenation. Superb!
Kath Middleton
Jan 22, 2020 rated it really liked it
4.5 stars
This book contains a kernel or two of truth and historical fact, explained at the end. Its concerned with breathing, or the inability to do so. There are three main protagonists and we dip into each story. It can be a little disorientating as these individuals stories also move up and down their timeline so you need your wits about you. Each chapter is clearly marked with who and when. The writing can be hugely evocative but also a bit jerky sentence fragments etc. However, the book
Lolly K Dandeneau
via my blog:
'Maybe life could be like this, like a finger broken and never treated, healed but crooked. Or a leg. You could walk with a limp forever. You could get used to anything.'

Can we truly get used to anything? To a life spent craving the taste of air, as you fight your own lungs to stay alive? Can you get used to a quiet place when you crave the city, noise? Will you ever get used to the absence of your greatest treasure, as it slipped away one quiet
Feb 18, 2020 rated it it was amazing
A real artefact, the death mask of an unknown nineteenth century French woman, is the starting point for three intersecting stories exploring the events that led to the woman's death by drowning in Paris, the circumstances that prompted a Norwegian toymaker in the middle of the twentieth century to design a manikin for teaching artificial resuscitation, and the experience of a Canadian woman in the twenty-first century awaiting a lung transplant.

The connection between these stories is tenuous
Elite Group
Mar 18, 2020 rated it really liked it
A reflective novel linked by water.

Coming Up For Air is a rather clever concept of three individual peoples tales woven together, where all are linked by water.

I was particularly drawn in with the first tale, set in Paris in 1899, centred around the River Seine. It features an unknown young woman... (LInconnue) ... whose story is beautifully crafted by Sarah Leipciger. This young womans life is tough and the author cleverly weaves her trials and tribulations, leading up to a rather untimely
Feb 20, 2020 rated it it was ok
My thanks to NetGalley and publisher Random House UK for the ARC.
This was an interesting read with the author weaving fact and fiction through three lives, each a century apart, and their influence on the creation of the CPR mannequin Resussi Annie (Rescuci Anne).

An unknown woman (L'Inconnue) who drowns in the river Seine in France in the late 1800s.
Pieter Akrehamn, a toymaker and inventor in Norway in the 1950s and his younger days in the 1920s..
Anouk, a journalist from Ottawa River, Canada,
Jan 22, 2020 rated it it was amazing
What an outstanding read, Im going to be recommending this far and wide.

Linked by the themes of breathing and of water, three different stories span the narrative of Coming Up for Air:

We follow Anouks life in the present day as she negotiates a constant battle to breathe with cystic fibrosis and its constant demands upon her body, her relief found in open air swimming and being under the water; back at the end of the 19th century, a young woman in Paris, worn down by life, seeks out the water as
Joanne Liddement
Mar 07, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Wow! This is an usual and amazing book that is based on the unknown woman, who drowned and was pulled out of the River Seine in Paris, during the 1880's. She was so striking, that a young pathologist created a death mask from her face. This death mask became a fixture for bohemian artists and was actually exhibited for the world to see. Eventually the mask became the face for the first ever, first aid resuscitation model.
Coming Up For Air follows three characters, beginning with the fictional
John Glover
Feb 11, 2020 rated it it was amazing
This is an epic novel about fierce love, grief and human resilience, revealing the remarkable reverberations our lives can create, long after our deaths.

On the banks of the River Seine in 1899, a young woman takes her final breath before plunging into the icy water. Although she does not know it, her decision will set in motion an astonishing chain of events. It will lead to 1950s Norway, where a grieving toy-maker is on the cusp of a transformative invention, all the way to present-day Canada
Joanna Pearl
Dec 21, 2019 rated it it was amazing
You must read this beautiful, riveting novel.
There are three main stories within it.
In 1899 a young girl becomes a companion to an elderly Parisian woman, and a love affair leads to a series of terrible events, and to the banks of the River Seine.
In the 1950s, a Norwegian toy-maker writes a love letter to his little boy.
And in present day Toronto, journalist Anouk struggles to breathe as she battles with cystic fibrosis.
The three stories are linked in unexpected ways but its not a book that
Enid Wray
Another one I was excited to get reading, but which I am also choosing to bail on (page 90/320 in the digital ARC). I like a nice slow literary read that I can savour and revel in, but I am just not connecting with this one.

I am finding the structure - the jumping back and forth in time between characters - to be hugely disrupting. I am not connecting with any of the characters it is so long between chapters where we hear from Pieter that Ive completely lost the threads of his story.

And the fact
Mar 11, 2020 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Sarah Leipciger weaves three strands of a story together. Perhaps the most successful is the tale of L'Inconnue de la Seine, an unidentified young woman whose body was pulled out of the River Seine in Paris. and whose death mask was the model for those resuscitation dummies used to practice CPR. Also interesting is the story of Anouk, a young Canadian with cystic fibrosis. Not engaging is the Norwegian strand, about a toymaker whose creates those CPR models after his little son drowns.

All three
Melanie Lewis
Mar 19, 2020 rated it really liked it
There's no doubt this is a beautifully written, almost lyrical book. There is no central theme. There isn't one main event the story is centred around. Instead we get accounts of 4 seemingly disparate people and their very different lives. I was waiting to see at what point their stories would merge, and, no spoilers here, that does and also doesn't eventually happen! If that's confusing then you'll have to read the book yourself to see. I enjoyed it very much and even though it wasn't in any ...more
Feb 08, 2020 rated it really liked it

Coming Up for Air is beautiful and very, very sad. It is story of three people across different time periods tangentially connected by one image. The first of these is a young woman who takes her own life in the River Seine. She is very fragile after having her heart broken, and I desperately wanted her to have a happy ending. The next is a self-absorbed toy maker, Pieter, who suffers a devastating loss that nobody would get over. The last story is that of resilient Anouk, who struggles with
Katy Wheatley
Feb 21, 2020 rated it it was amazing
This is rather an unusual read. It has an intricate plot and timeline and multiple characters to get to grips with, all of whom seem unrelated at the beginning. I found it tricky to get into but it's worth persevering with. The characters build well in complexity and interest and the plots, which seem diffuse, do come together in a refreshingly unusual way. It's extremely readable despite the unusual structure and isn't complex for complexity's sake. It has moments of great tension throughout ...more
Nancy Croth
Mar 29, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: adult-fiction
Coming Up For Air tells the tales of three seemingly unconnected people from different generations living in Paris, Norway and Canada. It starts with the suicide drowning of L'Inconnue (the unknown woman) in Paris, 1899. We then hear from Pieter in Norway in 1921 and finally to Anouk in 2017 Ontario. The stories are eloquently told and could stand alone on their own, which at a certain point, I thought they might. It wasn't until late in the book that the connection became clear. Having said ...more
Feb 20, 2020 rated it really liked it
Three extraordinary lives intertwine across oceans and time.

What intrigued me about this story was that one of the main characters sufferers from a chronic illness (which I also have) so I was delighted when I was accepted for an ARC of Coming Up For Air.

The story focus on three main characters who all share a connection with each other. Each characters story is told from 1899, 1950s and to the present day.

This was such a beauty to read.

Each story was mesmerising, moving and powerful.

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Sarah Leipciger was born in Peterborough, Canada. She spent her teenage years in Toronto, later moving to Vancouver Island to study Creative Writing and English literature at the University of Victoria. Leipciger left Canada in 2001 for Korea and South East Asia, and currently lives in London with her three children, where she teaches creative writing to men in prison. She is also a Creative ...more

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