Berlin, 1947. The Icelandic Agricultural Association advertises for “strong women who can cook and do farm work,” and artist Charlotte, who has watched her life and her city crumble around her, agrees to work at a farm called Dark Castle.
Seal Woman is, at its core, about the stories we tell ourselves about ourselves, and our lives. What is real, and what is myth? After almost incomprehensible pain and loss, how does one go on?
Impressionistic and mythic in the Iceland-based sections, and all too real and present in the Berlin-based sections, the settings–both time and place–are beautifully rendered. The characters, particularly the protagonist Charlotte, are very real and every bit as frustrating and messy as real people. I caught myself more than once thinking I was reading the biography of a mid-20th century war survivor.
But as fascinating as the story and the characters are, the writing itself is gorgeous; many passages are so lovely, I wanted to underline them and commit them to memory so I’d never forget their lyric beauty. Overall, this is a challenging book on many levels, but very rewarding. A fantastic story, beautifully written; highly recommended.