Bonna's Reviews > Hystera

Hystera by Leora Skolkin-Smith
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's review
Jan 15, 2012

it was amazing

From Carolyn Howard-Johnson:

Carolyn Howard-Johnson Author Den
Some might say all writers of fiction are a bit crazy. The statement may hold some truth if we note how much we like to follow the creative paths of fellow writers. I admit to being one of those.

Leora Skolkin-Smith's "Hystera" does not disappoint on that count. But it offers so much more.

Like most literary novels, it reads as if details are strongly influenced by real memories. Real as they feel, the narrator has committed herself to a psychiatric ward, so she is not a reliable source for judging reality. The lush, and somehow still subtle allusions to sex and body and her own past experiences, leave us not quite sure what conclusions the author intended the reader to make. Even an occasional syntax oddity ("Helen never explained why she stopped going back to her old house in Jerusalem, taking Lilly with her, but only that she could no longer recognize the places of her youth there anymore by 1960."), leaves us with uncertainty, similar--surely--to what the protagonist is going through.

Even descriptions about the protagonist's mother's preoccupation with the ancient craft of book binding is imbued with mystery. The subjects of this binding are written in ancient Hebrew and Aramaic texts and "Alchemical symbols" are the subjects this refurbishing is intended to preserve.

At it's root, "Hystera" is a story about shame, shame that lurks in the recesses of our psyches, shame imposed on us by parents, culture, and ourselves. A Universal Shame. Puritannical as well as Hebraic. Guilt no one generation, race, or religion can lay claim to.

I loved this book because it was about a writer, of course. But I also loved it because of the writing itself--the amazing techniques that can be observed--learned from--if the reader doesn't get too caught up in the forward motion of the story and the tone of the book not to pay attention.
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