Leaving Berlin
Thistledown Press / 2 March 2012

Leaving Berlin by Britt Holmström Published by Thistledown Press Review by Sandy Bonny $ 18.95 ISBN-13 987-1-897235-91-1 I recently crossed Saskatoon driving behind a battered Honda Civic with the bumper sticker: ‘Change is inevitable – growth is optional.’ This might well be the motto underlying Britt Holmström’s first collection of short fiction. In Leaving Berlin this experienced Regina-based novelist tapers her prose to focus on female characters thrust, often unexpectedly, into moments of revelation. These women, of all ages and origins, struggle with the assumptions and constraints that structure their lives. Complicated relationships unravel, personalities collide, and as time and memory turn back on themselves, yearnings, hopes, and reality itself, beg to be reframed. Rendered in candid, conversational prose, sharp physical descriptions position the reader as confidante to Holmström’s characters, and they certainly do confide In “ The Company She Kept” a group of divorced medical-office mates startle themselves out of a comfortable friendship by first obsessing over, then energetically attacking the transparent lies of a newly hired temp. She is young, beautiful, and clearly unstable, but they find themselves driven to best her, delighting in her weaknesses as they swirl into self-improvement. Their circle is scattered, ultimately, by shame…

Coteau Books / 28 October 2009

Claudia by Britt Holmström Published by Coteau Books Review by Sandy Bonny $21.00 ISBN-13 987-1-55050-395-1 Britt Holmström’s fourth novel Claudia moves along the fine boundaries of appearance and private truth. An upper middle-class widow living in Regina, Claudia Hewitt has framed her life perfectly. Childhood poverty in Sweden with her Latvian refugee mother is far behind her, as are the embarrassments of her ‘too big’ nose and adolescent chubbiness. Her grown children’s mishaps are glossed by white lies, and Claudia has carefully protected her family and aging mother from the fact that she has witnessed three brutal murders – first as a teenager in Sweden, later while backpacking in Spain, and finally from the window of her beloved husband’s study in Regina. Does bearing witness make her complicit in these tragedies? Does her silence? And what secrets, out of love or fear of judgment, have Claudia’s mother and children kept from her? Claudia is written in a world where violence is inevitable, where female sexuality can corrupt and degrade as well as empower, and where love can nourish healing. Moving backward and forward in time, and between Winnipeg, Regina, Sweden, Spain, and Latvia, ‘Claudia’ covers a lot of ground. Details…

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