Monday, September 7, 2015

Fall readings and workshops: Fossil Island and The Former World

 If you're in the Puget Sound area, please join me for one of several events in the next two months to celebrate the publication of my novels inspired by the relationship between Emilie Demant Hatt and Carl Nielsen
October 2, Friday, at 7:30 p.m. at the Swedish Club, 1920 Dexter Ave N, Seattle, WA 98109. In honor of the Danish connection, the Club’s chefs will be preparing a tasting menu of Danish treats, available from 6 p.m. on. If you’ve never been to the Swedish Club, it’s a fabulous World’s Fair-era building with a view of Lake Union and a cocktail bar out of  “The Jetsons.”

November 1, Sunday, 3 p.m. at the Nordic Heritage Museum, 3014 NW 67th Street Seattle, WA 98117. I’ll be talking for the novels and signing books before  a 4 p.m. concert with the Novus Project featuring Carl Nielsen’s work (tickets for the concert are available at $15 for Museum members, $20 general admission). 

November 14, Saturday, 7 p.m. at the Writers' Workshoppe in Port Townsend, 820 Water Street, PT, 360 379 2617. Earlier that day (10-3), I'll be giving a workshop on Writing Historical Fiction.

Sjoholm gives readers vibrant characters whose personal travails are all the more engrossing for the cultural upheavals that energize them. An entertaining, thoughtful story of old-fashioned romance, complicated by dawning modern mores.   Kirkus Reviews

These are thoughtful, glitteringly intelligent novels, as shrewd about shifting social conditions as they are about the workings of the human heart. – Editor’s Choice, Historical Novel Review

In Fossil Island, Nik is a fourteen-year-old tomboy who spends her time dreaming and fossilizing on the nearby island of Fur, a geologic marvel.  Her older sister Maj is studying to be a teacher but is starting to entertain ideas of women’s rights introduced by her new friend Eva Sandström. Both girls know they must marry eventually—just not yet. The summer of 1887 begins with a visit from the girls’ aunt, who brings with her from Copenhagen a young man of twenty-two, who plans to become a composer. Flirtation turns to a secret romance between Nik and Carl, as Maj weighs an engagement over her intense friendship with Eva. The following summer brings the sisters’ intertwining stories to a head as they spend a month in Copenhagen and juggle passion, jealousy, and violent events with how they can find independent lives of their own.

The story of Nik and Maj continues in the sequel, The Former World. Now sixteen, Nik resumes her relationship with the passionate Carl Nielsen, who comes once more for a summer visit in 1889 to her provincial village. But their bonds are strained by convention and Nik’s own stirrings of ambition to study art. Now twenty-one, Maj finds a teaching job, but her mother hasn’t given up the idea her eldest daughter will marry. Taking place over the course of two dramatic years, the sisters’ lives will be utterly changed by love, heartbreak, illness, and death. A vivid portrait of two stubborn daughters who love their family, but yearn for freedom on their own terms, The Former World recreates a time when women’s lives and Danish society were in transition. Whether it’s Nik learning to cycle or Maj dreaming of working in Brooklyn as a teacher, Nik and Maj are memorable characters in a setting both distant in time yet familiar.

"Fossil Island reads as well as any Jane Austen novel, but its political themes and social commentary really matter to the 21st-century reader. As in an Austen book, the characters are engaged with house parties, daily activities, relationships and, always and especially, conversations. However, this novel not only offers an insightful, engaging view of personal manners, social mores and romantic love, but also it deals with the politics of manners, mores, and love. In particular it illuminates the social history of women of the time, including lesbians and other women who wanted to live independent lives. Fossil Island brought to mind the wonderful and internationally acclaimed historical novels of Sarah Waters. Fossil Island, like Waters’s books, made me gasp out loud at its plot turns. The characters are so richly drawn, so compellingly human and difficult and funny and likable, and their interactions so humanly complicated, so impossible and so tender, that I think any fiction reader or history lover will read this, as I did, with avid enthusiasm.”                                                             ––Gillian Kendall, author of How I Became a Human Being

“Barbara Sjoholm transports us to Denmark in the 1880s, a time when traditional customs and ideas were giving way to new technology and modern thinking, and enchants us with the story of a girl’s first love.
Fossil Island captures beautifully the conflicting worlds the young lovers Carl and Nik move between: the harmony and lazy rhythms of village life on Jutland’s Limfjord, the dissonance and hectic tempos of Copenhagen. Nik experiences these disparate worlds with the apprehension and excitement of adolescence. In the city and the countryside she listens to young men and women debate the new ideas, but it is in the city Nik meets women who, by living life on their own terms, will make history and guide her on her own path: artists, writers, musicians, even her older sister’s feminist classmate who sails to America in search of work and adventure. Fossil Island is a book to savor—you won’t want to put it down, you won’t want it to end. ––Katherine Hanson, editor of An Everyday Story: Norwegian Women’s Fiction

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