The Swan Bonnet

Written by Katherine L. Holmes
Review by John H. Manhold

This historical novel set in early 20th century coastal Alaska is an interesting character study of a particular type of people at a specific time in history. Ostensibly the plot revolves around the effects of production and use of a hat fashioned from the pelt of a swan, but it includes allusions to mystical powers attributed to the pelt, attempted apprehension of illegal poachers and attempts at liquor prohibition. These parameters are somewhat divergent and a little awkward in combination, but have been conjoined nicely to describe the citizens of the small town in their thought processes, politics and activities.

Dawn and her acquaintances, her grandparents, her native mother, her part Russian uncle, the sheriff and his deputy, the wife of the large boat owner with her ‘parlor’ are all naturally portrayed in episodes of associated activity and awkward conversation occurring among individuals who lead a more solitary existence.

Although overly simplistic in part and not for everyone, many readers will find this nostalgic ‘study’ of individuals in a time and place when life was both simple and complex but ‘closer to earth’ most thought-provoking and enjoyable.