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Breath and Shadowsby Ella Leffland
Synopses & Reviews
Breath and Shadows is about three pairs of people who live in widely separated periods of time — the late 1700s, late 1800s, and late 1900s. These people, as gradually becomes clear, are three generations of the same family, none of which has any knowledge of the other two. But there exists down through these far-flung generations a meshwork of cause and effect that reverberates all the way into the present.
The interrelatedness of these three pairs of people, the twining of their destinies, is the core of the book.
Though the novel takes place in three different centuries, it is rooted in such timeless attributes as social mores, class and money, as well as in historical events such as the battle at Leipzig, where Napoleon was crushed, and the ruins of Berlin in 1945.
These events are woven through the private lives of the characters, among whom are a lonely and young officer, a sculptress trying to find truth in the stone she works with, a man terrified of flying who forces himself to fly constantly, a woman who embodies the ineffable bond between an animal and a human being, and others responding to their world, their natures and their needs. It is a novel about the attempt of human beings to know the past, to know one another and to know themselves. It is about love, loss, sexual passion, human perception and the possibility that the search for goodness may be an act of insanity.
"[An] exquisite and moving family saga....Breath and Shadows attains a surprisingly peaceful quality in the end." Brooks Hansen, The New York Times Book Review
"Leffland, who moves with ease from Napoleon's battle at Leipzig to contemporary Malibu, plots her book as densely as a fugue." The New Yorker
"[A] richly imagined story....Leffland's graceful, poetic prose and her ability to create indelibly vivid settings (from a small hut in the Jura mountains to the bustle of 18th-century Copenhagen) is dazzling." Publishers Weekly
"An enthralling generational novel....Leffland's rich novel is an impressively original work....Leffland's several protagonists emerge with stunning clarity....[Her] best novel yet." Kirkus Reviews
"Leffland writes with a grandeur and an omnipotence reminiscent of nineteenth-century fiction...a wise and poetic novel as enchanting and resonant as a fairy tale." Donna Seaman, Booklist (Starred Review)
"A book of piercing beauty that probes the heart of what it means to be human....Leffland's subtle descriptive powers beautifully match place with character." Minneapolis Star Tribune
"An extraordinary novel....It recalls us to our roots....It reminds us of our myths....There is great pleasure in reading this book, and a profound sense of what it means to be alive." The Washington Post Book World
"One of America's master storytellers." Gina Maritzer Smith, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
"The three stories eventually form a cohesive whole but demand much on the reader's part on the way there." Library Journal
In the tradition of Marianne Fredriksson's Hanna's Daughter, Leffland offers a beautifully written novel about the Rosteds, a Dutch family that carries a love of beauty and a propensity for madness in its blood.
Leffland's fifth novel takes place in three different time periods: the 1700s in Copenhagen, the late 1800s on the Danish coast, and the 1980s in Chicago. The destinies of three pairs of people, deeply embedded in history, are connected in mysterious ways.
About the Author
Ella Leffland is the author of four previous books including the highly regarded The Knight, Death and the Devil. She lives in San Francisco.
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