Enfilade

Summer Reading Idea | The Stockholm Octavo

Posted in books by Editor on May 25, 2013

From Harper Collins:

Karen Englemann, The Stockholm Octavo: A Novel (New York: Ecco, 2012), 432 pages, ISBN: 978-0061995347, $27.

StockholmOctavoLife is close to perfect for Emil Larsson, a self-satisfied bureaucrat in 1791 Stockholm. He is a true man of The Town—drinker, card player, and contented bachelor. Until one evening, when Mrs. Sophia Sparrow, proprietor of an exclusive gaming parlor and fortune teller, shares with him a vision she has had—a golden path that will lead to love and connection for Emil. She offers to lay an Octavo for him, a spread of cards that augur the eight individuals who can help him realize this vision—if he can find them. Emil begins his search, intrigued by the puzzle of his Octavo and the good fortune Mrs. Sparrow’s vision portends. But when Mrs. Sparrow wins a mysterious folding fan in a card game, the Octavo’s deeper powers are revealed. No longer just a game of the heart, collecting his Eight is now crucial to pulling his country back from the crumbling precipice of rebellion and chaos.  Set against the luminous backdrop of late 18th-century Stockholm, as the winds of revolution rage through the great capitals of Europe, The Stockholm Octavo brings together a collection of characters both fictional and historical whose lives tangle in political conspiracy, love, and magic in a breathtaking debut that will leave readers spellbound.

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From Ron Charles’s review (4 December 2012) for The Washington Post:

Engelmann lived in Sweden for almost 10 years and worked as an art director for Ikea, which you might see reflected in her story’s careful attention to design. No sepia tones for these 200-year-old scenes. Every room here vibrates with color. Even a relatively modest shop, for instance, “was painted in broad horizontal stripes of cheery lemon and cream, and the white crown moldings were like sculpted meringue oozing against the ceiling.” And Engelmann is just as captivating with the gorgeous outfits these people don to entertain and impress one another at a time when clothing was a strict marker of class and status. The antique etchings sprinkled throughout these pages are a nice touch, too . . .

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