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The Seal Wife (2002)

af Kathryn Harrison

MedlemmerAnmeldelserPopularitetGennemsnitlig vurderingOmtaler
2561277,957 (3.44)11
From the author of the bestselling THE BINDING CHAIR comes an extraordinary tale of desire set in the snowfields of 1917 Alaska. Bigelow is a scientist, meticulous and obsessive, a man of tightly coiled passion. Stationed in the tiny frontier town of Anchorage, Alaska in 1915, he builds a weather observatory, a kite big enough to penetrate the heavens, carrying instruments to track the great storms that scour the land. He is distracted from his labours when he meets a native Aleut woman, a stitcher of furs, whose muteness calls up in him an almost unbearable longing. Her ferocious self-containment begins to seem to him more and more animal -- and yet the more her silence pushes him away he burns to possess her. And when she disappears, he begins to believe he'll die if he never sees her again... An incendiary tale set against the sear and haunting landscape of the Great North, THE SEAL WIFE merges the enchantment of myth with a taut and chilling story of erotic compulsion.… (mere)

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I picked this up in a charity shop knowing nothing about the author but attracted by the innuit woman on the cover. Neither the innuit woman nor her photographer are credited - which about sums up the position of the women in the book. It did call to mind another woman writer of arctic adventures - Andrea Barrett - and there is some connection there in the viewpoint of a man's point of view but written by a woman. I found this less satisfying, a tale spun out to a novel's length, some disquiet as though she takes advantage of her characters, and the characters in the book not coming to life for me. But some really good writing in there to make the reading worth while. ( )
  Ma_Washigeri | Jan 23, 2021 |
NOT READ: Sent to frigid Alaska in the early 1900s to establish a weather observatory, a man finds hot passion as well
  JoshSapan | May 29, 2019 |
I picked this up in a charity shop knowing nothing about the author but attracted by the innuit woman on the cover. Neither the innuit woman nor her photographer are credited - which about sums up the position of the women in the book. It did call to mind another woman writer of arctic adventures - Andrea Barrett - and there is some connection there in the viewpoint of a man's point of view but written by a woman. I found this less satisfying, a tale spun out to a novel's length, some disquiet as though she takes advantage of her characters, and the characters in the book not coming to life for me. But some really good writing in there to make the reading worth while. ( )
  Ma_Washigeri | May 27, 2018 |
First, I was really sucked in by this book. It is simply great storytelling, using the sparest kind of writing, incorporating things like loneliness, meteorology, mathematics, sexual obsession, Alaska during WWI, etc. I mean there is a lot of fascinating stuff in this slim novel. I admit that I would be the first to say, Who cares about weather, or the math used to predict it? Well, in THE SEAL WIFE, Kathryn Harrison writes about these esoteric elements so well that she makes you care.

Harrison has written a half dozen or more books by now, but THE SEAL WIFE is the first one I've read, although I certainly remember all the publishing industry buzz nearly twenty years ago about her notorious memoir, THE KISS, which detailed an incestuous affair an adult Harrison had with her father. So, knowing that much, perhaps I should not have been surprised by the sexual detail found in THE SEAL WIFE, about Bigelow, a young weatherman in Anchorage, Alaska, who becomes obsessed with a mysterious, self-possessed and silent Aleut woman during the years of WWI. Harrison paints a darkly luminous portrait of the loneliness of frontier life in the land of the midnight sun, a rough, bleak region populated mostly by men.

Again, one wouldn't think reading about the mathematical calculations needed for weather forecasts or constructing a giant kite to send weather instruments miles into the sky would be all that interesting. Well, trust me, it is.

Far in the back of my mind, I keep recalling a novel I read years ago about an Irish fisherman who marries a "seal wife" - a riff on the Selkie legends - but I cannot for the life of me remember the title or author of that book. In any case, there are very subtle elements of that old Celtic myth artfully woven into the story of young Bigelow and his Aleut lover.

But I don't want to spoil any of this story for other readers. It is, however, one of the most mesmerizing books I've read in a long time. I LOVED it! Very highly recommended.

- Tim Bazzett, author of the memoir, BOOKLOVER ( )
  TimBazzett | Sep 6, 2016 |
The Seal Wife is one of the most beautiful books I've ever read. I just finished it and I wish there was more to read! It's a rather minimalist book with short chapters and sparse dialogue. It uses vignettes to pull the story along. As the book is mostly from inside Bigelow's mind, a self defined loner who is in Anchorage to forecast and study the weather, the book's minimalism beautifully captures the experience of being alone among others, an observer given time to absorb the surroundings and think about things. ( )
  pussreboots | Oct 12, 2014 |
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From the author of the bestselling THE BINDING CHAIR comes an extraordinary tale of desire set in the snowfields of 1917 Alaska. Bigelow is a scientist, meticulous and obsessive, a man of tightly coiled passion. Stationed in the tiny frontier town of Anchorage, Alaska in 1915, he builds a weather observatory, a kite big enough to penetrate the heavens, carrying instruments to track the great storms that scour the land. He is distracted from his labours when he meets a native Aleut woman, a stitcher of furs, whose muteness calls up in him an almost unbearable longing. Her ferocious self-containment begins to seem to him more and more animal -- and yet the more her silence pushes him away he burns to possess her. And when she disappears, he begins to believe he'll die if he never sees her again... An incendiary tale set against the sear and haunting landscape of the Great North, THE SEAL WIFE merges the enchantment of myth with a taut and chilling story of erotic compulsion.

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