Book Review: Harriet Wolf's Seventh Book of Wonders
By: Julianna Baggott
Published By: Little, Brown and Company
Publication Date: August 18, 2015
Page Count: 352
Source: Kindly Provided by Publisher
Audience: Adult - Historical Fiction
Harriet Wolf’s Seventh Book of Wonders is about family, love, and loss through four generations of the Wolf family. Eleanor is the daughter of the late Harriet Wolf, a famous writer-recluse. Eleanor’s daughter Ruth, who ran away at age sixteen, made a promise to Tifton, Eleanor’s other daughter, that she would one day return to rescue Tifton. When Ruth learns that Eleanor has had a heart attack, she comes back home to fulfill her promise. The story of their family is told from the viewpoints of these four women.
I am really struggling to get my thoughts into words for this book. Harriet tells the reader, “Each molecule of story is a universe—grotesque and stunning…” I can think of no better way to describe my impression of Harriet Wolf’s Seventh Book of Wonders. Grotesque and stunning. In a nearly biblical way, each generation of the family is acting out and reacting to the sins of the previous generations even down to the fourth generation. That, in itself, wouldn’t be so bad except that these otherwise intelligent women are consciously doing the things that will make them unhappy. They know they are repeating what has happened before, but they just can’t help themselves. It almost feels as though they are doomed to it, which is really depressing. At the same time, Harriet’s underlying love story is sweet and true kept me going through the difficult parts of the book.
The other thing that kept me moving forward in the story was Baggott’s writing. Her prose is lyrical and her imagination extremely fertile. The imagery in the novel was lush and occasionally stunning. In Harriet’s six books, the Wonder series of the title, the protagonists actually age with the readers. In the first book, Harriet’s characters are children, and by the sixth they have grown old. It sounded so cool to me, I wish they were real books.
I finished this book torn between the amazing writing and the miserable characters. If you enjoy sad, angsty, literary stories, this one’s definitely for you!
A brilliantly crafted saga about three generations of women and their secrets, including the discovery of a final unpublished book by the family matriarch, a revered and reclusive author.
Harriet Wolf has a final confession. It can be found only in the final book of the series that made her a famous writer. But does that book exist?
This absorbing novel spans the entire twentieth century, telling the moving story of a mother, her daughter, and two granddaughters, one of whom is the only person alive who knows the whereabouts of Harriet's final book. When a hospitalization brings the family back together, the mystery not only of Harriet's last book, but also of her life, hangs in the balance. Will the truth ever be known, or is Harriet's story gone forever?
A multi-generational tale of long-lost love, motherhood, and family secrets, this is Baggott's most sweeping and mesmerizing novel yet.