Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Coming Soon to a Bookstore Near You -The Sunken Cathedral; Kate Walbert

First the cover drew me in and then then I read the description overview - wow, this sounds good to me. Would you try this one?

The Sunken Cathedral; Kate Walbert
June 9th - 2015 - Scribner

(Ann Packer's Review)

Kate Walbert’s brilliant fiction has always been full of contradictions. It’s delicate but bold. Sweepingly historical but deeply intimate. Leisurely yet absolutely gripping. In her new novel The Sunken Cathedral, she gives us her most complex and moving novel to date, a story of intersecting lives in Manhattan and of the ever-difficult negotiations we make with memory and yearning.
It’s the near future. Weather patterns have gone haywire, and the city and its residents are bracing for the worst, enduring constant rain and ever fearful of catastrophic flooding. Marie and Simone are elderly widows, still plucky enough to enroll in an art class but bewildered by the losses they’ve incurred and by the mysteries surrounding love in its many forms. Marie rents the upper floor of her house to a family of three, a woman named Elizabeth and her husband and son, whose attendance at a local school raises such anxieties for Elizabeth that she becomes consumed by self-doubt, which has repercussions that are minor for the main characters but catastrophic for one man whom we--and they--only glimpse.
This is Walbert’s genius: to reveal the threads that stretch from person to person, from present to past, and in so doing expand her story into new and unexpected dimensions. No writer working today matches her ability to find the universal in the exceedingly particular, as when Marie, remembering the central trauma of her childhood in war-torn France, which played out in an orchard after dark, imagines that again (or still) “she smells the sick sweet of apricots, feels the soft rotten fruit on her bare feet.”
Walbert’s tactic in this book is at once simple and breath-taking: she uses footnotes. A paragraph about Marie’s late husband ends with an asterisk that takes us to a footnote that begins this way: “Marie finds it almost unbearable that Abe is dead and she is alive,” hardly an afterthought, hardly irrelevant, but its placement at the bottom of the page perfectly represents the idea’s position in Marie’s mind: it’s at the base of everything. As the novel progresses, footnotes take us deeper into the characters’ memories, elaborating on and offering counterpoint to the main text. A device that in the work of other writers often seems an affectation finds in The Sunken Cathedral, something like an ideal use. “There is this,” Walbert seems to be saying in the main text, and then she drops you to the bottom of the page and says: “But be aware, there is also this.”
After a member of the art class has died unexpectedly, the teacher tries to coax the class into a minute of silence, saying “’We are here to remember our good friend and fellow artist’” and then stopping, because of course the students are not there for that, they are there to paint, to “see in the way one must see to be alive. We are here, then, to be alive,” he thinks. “To live.” Kate Walbert sees in a manner that exalts the everyday into poetry and gives our deepest desires an unexpected and brilliant expression. She is among our very best writers, which The Sunken Cathedral makes abundantly clear.


  1. New to me. thanks for the post.

  2. I loved this book, as you can see from my review here

  3. I've been seeing this one around a bit and this review definitely intrigues me! So many June books...aaah!

  4. That sounds very interesting and I really like the cover too!

  5. Great post Diane, this sounds like a very interesting read. Thank for commenting on my blog. I have a quiet morning after hectic few days on holiday, and wifi is good at present so I am trying to return a few visits.

  6. She sounds like a creative writer.


Thanks for taking the time to visit and double thanks for any comments. If you ask a question in your comments, I will try to reply to it here, or by email if your settings allow me to do so. Thank again for visiting.

(I apologize for the word verification, spammers spoil it for all sadly.)