An Absence So Great: A Novel (Portraits of the Heart)


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It was not until I had finished the novel and read the author's notes that I discovered this series is based on her grandmother's life. Jessie Gaebele, an unmarried year old has left her hometown of Winona, Minnesota to work as a photographer in the Johnson Studio, while boarding with the delightful Harms family. Jessie is an adventurous woman, especially for the time period, and has set in her mind three conditions that must be met before she will travel home. First she must have enough money saved to buy her own studio in Winona, second, she must prove to herself she can make wiser decisions and third she must be able to tell herself the truth about her feelings for Fred Bauer.

Jane Kirkpatrick writes a beautiful historical novel with a strong main character and so many delightful characters that come in and out of Jessie's life. One of my favourite parts was when a new section would begin with a photograph and a description of the photograph, the time, the place, the emotions, and one was transported back to the world in which Jessie lived.

An Absence So Great is a beautiful novel of learning, finding out what is important in one's life, being true to oneself, love, loss, and family. An Absence So Great makes for a delightful evening of reading and would be a brilliant selection for a discussion group. LibraryThing member Tinasbookreviews.

She also used real photographs some of her family and some taken at the turn of the century which are showcased throughout the novel. An Absence so Great tells a story of a young woman pursuing her dreams as a renowned photographer and a woman torn between loving the wrong or perhaps right man. Taking the hard road, one a woman in fiction seldom takesthat being, forgoing staking her claim on the man she loves and leaving everything behind to venture pursuing her own dreams.

Number one it was brave and number two due to the fact Fred was married it was a wise decision. Even more I think the age difference was off, Jessie is 18 and Fred is much older with thinning hair, children and a mustache. The writing itself was very beautiful and the fresh layout to a somewhat common love story gave the book its originality.

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Learn More - opens in a new window or tab. Related sponsored items Feedback on our suggestions - Related sponsored items. Mystic Sweet Communion by Jane Kirkpatrick. A Sweetness to the Soul by Jane Kirkpatrick. Add to cart to save with this special offer. If you Buy It Now, you'll only be purchasing this item.

If you'd like to get the additional items you've selected to qualify for this offer, close this window and add these items to your cart. Buy only this item Close this window -. Report item - opens in a new window or tab. Seller assumes all responsibility for this listing. But first, in a joyous, teenage moment, three boys go surfing. We meet the living Simon only briefly.

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We surf one cold, heavy wall of water with him, and then in a road accident, he is gone. Even in flashbacks, he is closed and contradictory. We watch as the people who love him subjectively recreate him, and the effect is hollow and fractured.

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We follow his journey navigating urban life between seedy gay hotspots, lesbian communes and leather bars while having lots of sex with men and women along the way. This allows Paul to change his body and genitals to suit the desires of any man or woman whether they are gay or straight. In this way he gains intimate access to the bedrooms and communities of a whole spectrum of people in his quest to understand where he belongs.

For instance, he hilariously becomes painfully self-conscious about the way he chops vegetables while in a kitchen full of lesbians or gets treated with contempt for not being suitably attired in a bar full of leather men until he reveals at the piss trough what a sizeable member he possesses. I admired the way this novel shows the superficial reasons by which people judge whether an individual can be allowed into a community or alienated from it. Paul is highly cognizant of how to transform himself because he too quickly casts judgements about everyone he meets based on their manner and attire.

I felt his complicated nature made him very sympathetic as well as the real-world economic struggles of a young adult living from pay check to pay check. All these aspects made me fall in love with this book which encapsulates the way we function as social and sexual organisms. There the obvious differences in how he appears as his body is red and he possesses wings which he learns to conceal. Roses came roaring across the garden at him. He also takes up photography as if becoming an observer and recorder can emotionally remove him from reality. The narrator lives on an island where certain objects such as roses and music boxes totally disappear.

Events such as the systematic burning and destruction of outlawed objects have obvious parallels with historic fascist regimes. How much do we imaginatively insert false memories into the truth of what occurred in the past? I admire how she explores them in surprisingly subtle ways and from different angles in her brilliantly unique novels. She also has an interesting way of approaching the parallel issue of romance — both romance between people and our romantic relationship with our own pasts.

Although he assists the narrator in hiding the editor and rescuing disappeared goods, he has a more apathetic attitude about the worrying frequency with which things vanish. They have nothing to do with us. We simply have to leave things to fate. This echoes many examples from history where people are unwilling to defend their values, way of life and the lives of others when threatened by a perceived authority. I admire the way this excellent novel wrestles with these issues that we all face both as individuals and citizens of our communities. The story concerns Vibeke and her son Jon who have recently moved to small town in the north of Norway.

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This produces the curious effect of a synchronicity and connection between the two so the border between them appears to blur. Jon frequently pictures himself engaged in some sort of adventurous battle or running from a phantasmagorical threat. Meanwhile, Vibeke continuously tests the romantic boundaries with a man named Tom she meets at a fun fair — but only in her mind. In this way the novel powerfully shows the singular way we navigate through the world and continuously negotiate our relationships with other people.

An Absence So Great

The BBC have published a list of novels that shaped our world to mark the th anniversary of the English language novel. But I think the way certain stories or language or ideas from certain novels work their way into public and political dialogue can really have a big impact - both on popular culture and the values of society.

Of course, one of the best things about a list like this is hearing what books people think ought to be added onto it. What do you think about the novels on the list? What others would you add? Elizabeth Strout is a favourite author of mine not only because she writes so beautifully and movingly about the lives of ordinary people, but I often feel a special personal connection to her fiction which is so often set in Maine - where I also grew up.

This means her characters and their culture feel so immediately recognizable and familiar to me. Olive is loveable in spite of or maybe because of being such an irascible, strong-willed individual. As I talked about in a video earlier this year, I love how this form of novel gives a more rounded picture of a group of characters since you get a series of individual perspectives but also better see their relationships and perspectives on each other.

Later parts of this new novel bring certain characters together and you discover what happened to them after their individual sections conclude. In some sections Olive only makes a brief appearance or is referred to glancingly, but essentially this novel revolves around her. One of the interesting recurrences in this novel are moments where characters are so shocked and unsettled by unexpected incidents that they remember them throughout their lives.

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Editorial Reviews. Review. Praise for An Absence So Great “Life is really made of​: the settings, props, and poses we encounter, then put aside so we can cherish. Did photography replace an absence in her life or expose the truth of her heart's emptiness? While growing in confidence as a photographer, eighteen-year-old.

This is such a true mark of individual experience in how certain occurrences like this will doggedly and inexplicably stick with us. I appreciated how the novel uses different stories to trace the transforming moral values of the culture over many years and different generations. One section concerns a daughter who returns home to inform her parents she works as a dominatrix and that a documentary has been made about her.

Meanwhile, her father participates in Civil War re-enactments to physically inhabit an idea of the past. This contrast of activities creatively shows how we test the limits of our identities by inhabiting different modes of being. I loved having this chance to fictionally meet Olive again. More than that, this is a novel filled with so much humanity and exhibits a rare honesty about our relationships and individual foibles. The writer and her husband discuss the moral complexity of this situation and its emotional impact on all the characters involved. And while listening to her describe details of the plot and characterizations, the husband grows increasingly frustrated at the liberties the wife takes in borrowing names and situations from their real life and putting them in her novel.

But it also raises questions about the dynamic interplay between the imagination and sex as a physical act.