Monday, December 23, 2019

Love Denied

The Sacrament
A Novel By Olaf Olafsson
HarperCollins, 2019

Olaf Olafsson is an Icelandic businessman who was instrumental in the development of the Sony PlayStation as well as serving as an executive at Time-Warner. If that wasn’t enough of a career, he is also a successful novelist—this is his fifth. I've read some of his other ones and found them competent, if somewhat uninspired. This one is a step up although my personal bias (discussed later) may have something to do with my perceptions.

It is the story of Pauline who becomes enamored of an Icelandic woman (Halla) when they are both attending a Catholic college in Paris in the late sixties. Although the affair unconsummated, the Father in charge separates the two. Twenty years later, Pauline, now Sister Johanna Marie, is sent to Reykjavík to investigate alleged mistreatment of students at the Catholic school there. An event occurs when she is there that is revisited again, twenty years later. The resolution of this mystery (as well as a chance of reconciliation with Halla) drives the plot forward. Although it is well-written, the story jumps in time through the three eras, it is a little confusing at times; this is not a book to be idly read.

My personal take on this book is colored by my experiences in Iceland, including numerous references to places I’ve been—the neighborhood of the church is very familiar to me—at one point Sister Johanna even stays in what appears to be the same room I stayed in in 2006! The story of abuse in the Catholic school also mirrors a real-life scandal that broke a few years ago. This novel is fiction, of course, but it is easy to see where Olaf got some of his inspiration.

I was a little put off by this book at first, I thought that the author may have been in over his head with his focus on the lesbian sub-theme, but he did resolve it by the end.


By Professor Batty


Blogger jono said...

Just might have to give it a try.

Blogger Professor Batty said...

It grew on me, the author has an understated writing style that lets one sink into the story.

Blogger Shoshanah Marohn said...

I love it when you read a book that takes place in places you know. I had that experience with "The Snowman," where the climax takes place on the ski jump that was used for one of the olympic games, and I actually went there once long ago on a tour bus tour and went to the top and got really scared! I'm afraid of heights. But the way the characters in the Snowman had a scary experience there really rang true to me, because it was already, in my mind, a really scary place!

God Jul!

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