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The Saskiad Hardcover – January 23, 1997
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Magical, wondrous, breathtaking ... I want the whole world to read this epic coming-of-age tale! Saskia is one of the quirkiest, most loveable and carefully drawn characters I've ever met. She milks cows, reads Homer, and lives on an old farm that used to be a commune. Abandoned by her father and neglected by her oovy-groovy mother, Saskia survives her loneliness by diving deep into imaginary worlds populated by explorers and adventurers. And then ... after a postcard arrives from her missing father, the adventure starts to become very real. Though originally published for an adult audience, Brian Hall's masterpiece explores so authentically the mind and heart of a blossoming young woman, it should be read by sensitive, intelligent teenagers everywhere.
From Publishers Weekly
A precocious 12-year-old narrator animates this beguiling coming-of-age story, a blend of mythical, literary and philosophical themes that flows easily between the concrete details of the heroine's contemporary life and the spinning worlds of her fantasies. Intelligent, spirited Saskia grows up on a 1960s-style commune in upstate New York. The classical name of the nearest city, Ithaca, informs Saskia's adventurous imagination; she dreams she is a cohort of Odysseus, a disciple of Marco Polo, a friend of 16th century astronomer Tycho Brahe. Her mother, Lauren, is a gorgeous, stolidly independent organic farmer who runs the commune. Saskia's father, Thomas, abandoned the family many years earlier, about the same time the commune's then-guru went insane, accosted his followers with sadistic violence and supposedly killed himself. Awkward Saskia is thrilled when Jane Singh, a new student at school "beautiful as a gazelle," becomes her friend. Jane, happy to play roles in Saskia's imaginary adventures, doesn't seem to notice or mind that she's the object of Saskia's sexual crush. Out of the blue, Thomas invites Saskia to visit him in Denmark. With Lolita-sultry Jane in tow, Saskia reunites with her father, who is now an eco-activist trying to save a valley in Norway from being destroyed by a dam. As Thomas builds himself up in Saskia's eyes as a valiant activist, he also accepts Jane's tentative sexual advances. After Thomas agrees to return home to reunite with Lauren, Saskia learns some shocking truths about her father, which prompt her to run away to Manhattan. Finally, Saskia returns home with a great trust in herself and understanding of her life. Despite Hall's many allusions to great works of literature, his prose tends more towards gentle humor and he doesn't belabor the obvious parallels between Odysseus and Thomas, Lauren and Penelope, etc. He has woven a compelling tale that deftly questions hero-worship while at the same time constructing in Saskia an inventive heroine who should strike a chord with readers who loved Joestein Gaarder's Sophie's World. Rights sold in 11 countries; author tour.
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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When Saskia's long-absent father suddenly returns to remove her from the isolation of her school and her mother's ex-commune, her fantasies of adventure and paternal companionship seem to be coming true; their sweetness makes it all the more wrenching for us when his selfishness and hypocrisy finally shatter them. Hall does not shy away from this destruction, but doesn't lapse into cynicism either. The result is a novel that neither crucifies its main character nor condescends to her; we love her, but we see what has to happen to her in the real world.
It's natural for some readers to expect a novel with a plucky 13-year-old protagonist to be aimed at the "safe" moral instruction of young adults, along the lines of Harper Lee's _To Kill a Mockingbird_, but that really isn't Hall's intention here. This is serious, unsentimental literary fiction that doesn't censor, patronize, or flinch --- and, after all, why should a "coming of age" story be taken seriously if the characters and the narrative itself remain naive? Read _The Saskiad_ yourself --- it's brilliant, one of the best American novels of the 90s. And if you happen to have a teenage daughter or son who is sensitive and mature enough to appreciate it, by all means let them read it --- you should be proud.