callmemadam (callmemadam) wrote,
callmemadam
callmemadam

Etta and Otto and Russell and James, Emma Hooper

ettaottoetc

This is a remarkable first novel from Emma Hooper. Etta, Otto and Russell are in their eighties, yet still in a love triangle going back years. Initially I was confused by the location. The isolated farmsteads, the wind and dust suggest the Midwest but no, we’re in Saskatchewan. One morning Etta, aged eighty two, leaves a note and sets off on a solitary walk because she needs to see ‘the water’. She will be walking right across Canada.

The story is set before, during and a long time after the Second World War. The narrative is arranged like pieces of a jigsaw puzzle scattered all over a table; you have to put the picture together for yourself. At times the characters become confused so that one is sharing the experiences of the other. The style is also eccentric: no punctuation used for speech, for instance. Everything James says is printed in italics and to know the reason for that, you’ll just have to read the book.

As Etta progresses on her journey her picture appears in a newspaper and she becomes famous. Welcoming parties appear, people want to meet her and to give her things. This is all reminiscent of Rachel James’s The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry but the books couldn’t be more different. I’m now haunted by three images. Etta: the young school teacher, the war worker and the old woman with a mission it’s hard to understand. Faithful Russell, determined to find her. Otto waiting; writing letters Etta will never read, making animal sculptures for who knows what reason. A haunting and strangely touching novel.

I read this courtesy of NetGalley. It will be published by Penguin at the end of January and is worth looking out for.
Tags: emma hooper, kindle, netgalley
Subscribe

  • TV watch: Mrs Miniver

    I noticed that the film of Mrs Miniver was on at some ridiculously early hour, so recorded it for later viewing. I knew I’d seen it before,…

  • August Books

    Death is a Word, Hazel Holt Player One, Douglas Coupland Taken at the Flood, Agatha Christie Before the Rains , Dinah Jefferies Murder…

  • June books: a month of light reading

    Mary Wakefield, Mazo de la Roche The Vanishing of Audrey Wilde , Eve Chase N or M?, Agatha Christie Because of the Lockwoods, Dorothy…

  • Post a new comment

    Error

    default userpic

    Your reply will be screened

    Your IP address will be recorded 

    When you submit the form an invisible reCAPTCHA check will be performed.
    You must follow the Privacy Policy and Google Terms of use.
  • 4 comments