The Sentimentalists by Johanna SkibsrudThe Sentimentalists by Johanna Skibsrud

The Sentimentalists

byJohanna Skibsrud

Paperback | November 19, 2010

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Haunted by the vivid horrors of the Vietnam War, exhausted from years spent battling his memories, Napoleon Haskell leaves his North Dakota trailer and moves to Canada.

He retreats to a small Ontario town where Henry, the father of his fallen Vietnam comrade, has a home on the shore of a man-made lake. Under the water is the wreckage of what was once the town -- and the home where Henry was raised.

When Napoleon's daughter arrives, fleeing troubles of her own, she finds her father in the dark twilight of his life, and rapidly slipping into senility. With love and insatiable curiosity, she devotes herself to learning the truth about his life; and through the fog, Napoleon's past begins to emerge.

Lyrical and riveting, The Sentimentalists is a story of what lies beneath the surface of everyday life, and of the commanding power of the past. Johanna Skibsrud's first novel marks the debut of a powerful new voice in Canadian fiction.

Johanna Skibsrud's first poetry collection, Late Nights With Wild Cowboys, was published in 2008 by Gaspereau Press and was shortlisted for the Gerald Lampert Award. Originally from Scotsburn, Nova Scotia, she now lives in Montreal. This is her first novel.
Title:The SentimentalistsFormat:PaperbackDimensions:224 pages, 8.49 × 5.49 × 0.55 inPublished:November 19, 2010Publisher:Douglas And McIntyre (2013) Ltd.Language:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:1553658957

ISBN - 13:9781553658955

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Rated 3 out of 5 by from Very difficult writing style I agree with previous reviewers , that the writing style is very difficult to follow and very amateurish. Having said that, it is an interesting story and the ending is very interesting.
Date published: 2017-02-22
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Some redeeming values Writing style was difficult. Too, many, commas, and hyphens, and; interrupted, sentences, phrases, and -- ideas. I'm no grammar nerd but it read without any kind of flow because of this. Maybe that's the point?? Didn't hit its stride until about half-way point and it is only a short novel. Overall interesting. Part of the story was true.
Date published: 2017-01-31
Rated 1 out of 5 by from REALLY LAME I actually finished the whole book. Wish I hadn't bothered. I was tricked into reading it because of the Giller Prize award it recieved. Really pathetic!!! Forgetable characters, out of control punctuation, super boring story. YAWN!!! If you need something to make you fall asleep quickly try reading this mess!
Date published: 2012-09-21
Rated 1 out of 5 by from Dreary and pointless This was the most over-hyped book of 2010. I read it to the finish hoping to connect with something but it was a snooze from beginning to end. A novel where nothing happens to people you could care less about.
Date published: 2012-02-01
Rated 1 out of 5 by from Not for me This debut novel, a sombre story of the unreliability of memory and the emotional ghosts of war won its author the prestigious Scotianbank Giller Prize in 2010. Skibsrub’s background as a poet stands out immediately. The prose is heavy in precision, mainly focussing on words and turns of phrases and less on the action and character development. In my humble opinion this book is overwritten, it is composed with an astounding play on words and over use of adjectives that may be appealing to some but not all. The novel is narrated by an unnamed person who returns to stay with her father, a Vietnam War veteran. She recalls her father’s life in a meandering voice that moves between the present and the past and shifts rather awkwardly between Fargo, ND and Casablanca, Ontario and the battlefields of Vietnam. The first half of the book was so tedious it fast became boring and I simply lost interest, only 200 pages and I couldn’t stick with it till the end …..Something I rarely do…So in all fairness I leave others to be the judge.
Date published: 2011-08-25
Rated 1 out of 5 by from Very Very Disappointing Like others I tried to find something positive to like in this story. But really there was not much of a plot , nor any characters that you would remotely even like. Joanna Skibsrud, being a poet writes in a very lyrical way, but I resent the fact that my time invested in this novel was wasted over and over again with a highly decorated vocabulary of sentences, paragraphs and chapters which didn't tell you anything at all. I found myself forever putting this book down' looking for something else to do, Once I start a book I will always finish it regardless,so I felt very angry that this Giller winner was so disappointing. Don't waste your money...if you still feel the need to read it borrow it from the library..
Date published: 2011-04-06
Rated 1 out of 5 by from Not just disappointed - angry I have never been so disappointed, or should I say more angry with a book. How this book won the Giller Prize is beyond me. Reading The Sentimentalists felt like I was having a conversation with that "guy" in the office who just can't tell a story properly, going back and forth in time, weaving in and out of scenes and events and never coming to the point of his story until finally you walk away feeling like you've wasted a large chunk of your precious time. I was expecting to be taken into a world of wonderfully lyric prose. I knew that plot would not be foremost in this style of novel, but I had expected some interesting insights into the human condition, a soldier's struggle with an act of war, and a daughter's struggle to get to know her father. But the first part of the novel jumps around so much in place and time that it's difficult to know exactly where you are, and the sentences are long, rambling and make it difficult to read the book or understand the author's point. There is obviously something wrong in the relationship between Napoleon Haskell and his daughter. The implication is there is something hidden, some great and terrible event that has caused Napoleon to be the way he is. He has moved in with Henry, the father of his Vietnam War comrade Owen, and the reader is given to understand that the terrible event has something to do with Owen. If you can force yourself to continue to read, you'll find out that the terrible event is the killing of women and children in Vietnam, but there is virtually no mention of Owen or Napoleon's involvement in his death. In fact it's worse. The author seems to have noticed this and, like throwing spaghetti at a wall to see what sticks, throws in a list of possible events that might have occurred but no one knows if they did or not. I felt as though I had read some high school student's attempt at a novel. The kind where a teacher would pat the student on the head and say, "Good first try, now go away and work on it until it's readable and says something to the reader." In fact, her use of testimony from a court martial was the only part that really made sense, and I wonder if some writing instructor or editor didn't tell her that she had to put something in at the end that would bring about at least some kind of conclusion or sense to the novel. To all unpublished authors out there, if this book can not only get published, but win a prize - there's hope for you and your book.
Date published: 2011-03-13
Rated 1 out of 5 by from Disappointed What a letdown!! Had a very difficult time reading this 'Giller Prize Winner'. The only reason I forced myself to read the entire book was the fact that I had purchased it. Did not hold my interest, and did not live up to the glowing review on the back cover. I expected much more insight regarding Napoleon's views and or memories of his time in Vietnam. Hope Johanna Skibsrud's next novel is more engaging.
Date published: 2011-02-16
Rated 2 out of 5 by from Disappointing I bought this novel with high expectations - surely, it would be an excellent novel, it had just won the Giller Prize! How wrong could I be... It was, to say the least, disappointing. It took only two days to read, but the reading felt rather forced. While the writing was good, I found the story completely disengaging - I could not get myself wrapped up in the plot at all. Only the "interview" near the end of the novel caught my interest. Sadly, it was little reward for the struggle I had to put up to make myself read this disappointing little book.
Date published: 2011-02-11
Rated 1 out of 5 by from Disappointment I really wanted to like this book but it wasn't meant to be. I ordered this book after hearing about the small publisher with high standards that ran out of copies of the book after it won the Giller Prize. Unfortunately, this is the best part of the story. The book itself lacks any real plot or story line. The sentences seem to run on and on with an excessive amount of commas. Reading the book is like watching a soap opera after a 2 year absence. You can likely skip multiple pages and not really miss much of anything.
Date published: 2011-01-31
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Provoking I would like to be more enthusiastic than I am, really I would. Unfortunately, I ran out of energy as I read The Sentimentalists. What is very good about it is that it is so lyrical, and the pictures that the author creates immediately bring images to my mind. I can see the old house by the lake and the boat that was never finished. I can feel what it is like in the room with the father who never wins his battle with alcoholism. The story teller's relationships with her sister and others can be felt at a real human level. Her loneliness prevails. It is like a very pale and beautiful watercolour painting! But it is a sad story and one that underwrites loneliness and alienation. Of course, that makes it more difficult to read! There is no humour to balance the sadness. And quite often, lyrical tales are hard to follow and the plot often wanders as it gets bogged down in poetry. I have a sense, though, that this very young author has such skill with words and language that she will learn how to bring more energy to her story so that a reader as I am, can engage more fully. Perhaps, the author herself says it best at the conclusion of her tale: "I believe...what remains now of this particular story is not the story itself, but something underneath. Because even at the very end , there remained in my father's life, and now in my own, that possibilty, always. A promise of something. And although now that promise - which I have been trying for some time now to put into words...." Yes, I have a sense of the promise but am not really sure of the story...that remained elusive. It is worth a read but only at a time when you have the patience to focus on the page before you and are not too anxious to look for page-turning drama and an exciting climax.
Date published: 2011-01-20
Rated 1 out of 5 by from Unbelievable Unbelievable that this book won the Giller. What were the judges smoking? The book is not the cablibre of writing of previous winners as Bloodletting and Miraculous Cures or The Bishop's Man. The book consisted of long run on sentences that had to be read twice to figure out what was going on.. It was a good thing the jacket or of the book explained the story or I would not have had a clue.. Very poor character development . Yet books as Cool Water by Dianne Warren with excellent character development never even made the shortlist for the Giller.
Date published: 2011-01-18
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Thought provoking! Johanna Skibsrud manages to put into words that which cannot really be expressed, the essence of profound sadness and horror but there is heroism too. Her prose is like poetry which I had to read and reread in an effort to see through the obscurity that unfolds in the story. But like many of the characters in the novel, no one has a true understanding of what happened. It is a slow and careful read but what an excellent book!
Date published: 2011-01-17
Rated 2 out of 5 by from An award winner!!! Really?? Honestly I didn't think the book was that good. I liked the writing style, but the story itself fell flat. It was hard to feel anything for the characters and even harder to enjoy the story. I can't say it was confusing, but just blah. And as for the characters, well there was no real depth. I wouldn't rush to read this book
Date published: 2011-01-16
Rated 1 out of 5 by from Why? A disjointed mess. It was impossible to feel anything for or connect with the characters. This book would make me question reading another book that wins the Giller award. It should have been left in very limited release - shame on the publisher for buying into the hype.
Date published: 2011-01-13
Rated 1 out of 5 by from Disaster I generally find it difficult to read Canadian lit because I've been let down so many times before. This was the most disappointing read for me in many years. The writing is pretentious, the story is difficult to follow, there's no connection for the reader with the characters and the story is just downright boring. Not really sure how this was the Giller Prize winner but I would not recommend this read to anyone.
Date published: 2011-01-06
Rated 2 out of 5 by from Disappointed I agree with the other comments -- I was expecting more. I never felt connected with the characters -- it was more like watching it from afar. I didn't find the characters fully developed and maybe that's why there was no connection with them. The section on Vietnam was hard to follow -- perhaps intended to be so. All this aside -- it might be a good book club selection as there would be lots to discuss.
Date published: 2011-01-04
Rated 2 out of 5 by from Borrow it from the library I was very excited to read this, but ended up disappointed in the end. I did not connect to any of the characters, nor did I get a sense of any forthcoming dementia issues, nor any sense of any suffering resulting from the real story (as told at the end). Sorry, but didn't see the reason for the this winning.
Date published: 2011-01-03
Rated 1 out of 5 by from Confused??? I was relieved to hear that other readers were also questioning this award given to this book??? I had to put the book down and call it quits... too many tangents and confusing story lines. Too bad because it could have been a great story. Very disappointed.
Date published: 2010-12-31
Rated 2 out of 5 by from Just ok I was expecting this to be a good read, but it was just 'ok'. I found my mind kept wandering - it didn't flow well.
Date published: 2010-12-29
Rated 1 out of 5 by from I do not understand.... I do not understand why this book was awarded the Giller Prize. I spent the last 4 nights trying to read it. The sentence structure defies reason and completely interferes with the flow of the story. And I consider myself a good reader. There is nothing in the story that compels me to keep struggling with the awkward, halting structures. What were they thinking.
Date published: 2010-12-24

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NOTE: The original handcrafted edition by Gaspereau Press is listed under ISBN 9781554470785. At this time, we do not have any confirmation when additional copies will be available.