ABOUT THE BOOK:
Three extraordinary lives intertwine across oceans and time.
On the banks of the River Seine in 1899, a young woman takes her final breath before plunging into the icy water. Although she does not know it, her decision will set in motion an astonishing chain of events. It will lead to 1950s Norway, where a grieving toy-maker is on the cusp of a transformative invention, all the way to present-day Canada where a journalist, battling a terrible disease, risks everything for one last chance to live.
Taking inspiration from a remarkable true story, Coming Up for Air is a bold, richly imagined novel about the transcendent power of storytelling and the immeasurable impact of every human life.
I first became aware of Sarah’s writing with her book The Mountain Can Wait which was a superb read. This book is a completely different animal but is equally superb!
This book opens with a devastating prologue. In 1899 a young women decides to take her life and plunges to the depths of the River Seine! Her body fights and she briefly surfaces, but her brain has decided she must die so she sinks again below the surface,
Her death sets in motion a sequence of events involving 1950s Norway and present day Canada.
This book takes three disparate stories all linked by a theme of water and drowning and somehow creates this beautifully moving narrative that I completely lost myself in as I was reading.
The book takes poetic licence with the story of L’Inconnue de la Seine who is an unidentified young woman whose body was pulled out of the River Seine in Paris around the 1880s. Her death mask became popular among artists and writers, and ultimately her face was used as the model for the face of Resusci Anne (Resuscitation Annie) which is the manikin used for CPR training.
The author Leipciger reimagines what this nameless woman’s life could have been like in the time period before her death and this reimagined narrative anchors the book.
And mingled with this are two further stories of a toy maker in 20th century Europe who specialises in pliable plastics and coming to terms with a devastating loss of his own and a young 21st. century woman who feels she is drowning in her own body as she battles a disease which is attacking her lungs.
These stories are interwoven and the reader moves from one to the other without noticing the seams.
This is altogether a quiet, reflective book that places the reader firmly within the minds of the three protagonists and relating to the events which have placed them in the story. A story I enjoyed reading and would recommend to all.
Rating 5 stars
Thanks to Sarah for the tale
Also Anne for the tour.
Sarah Leipciger was born in Peterborough, Canada. She spent her teenage years in Toronto, later moving to Vancouver Island to study Creative Writing and English literature at the University of Victoria. Leipciger left Canada in 2001 for Korea and South East Asia, and currently lives in London with her three children, where she teaches creative writing to men in prison. She is also a Creative Writing tutor at CityLit, and a pursuing a PhD in Creative Writing at Goldsmiths University.