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Etta and Otto and Russell and James

by Emma Hooper

Books with reviews by our Reader Review Panel eBooks of the Month Family Drama Modern and Classic Literary Fiction

LoveReading View on Etta and Otto and Russell and James

One of our Books of the Year 2015.

Etta, after being married to Otto for many years, decides, aged 82, that she wants to see the sea before she dies so she sets off from their farm in the middle of Canada to walk to the coast – alone. On her journey she is joined by a lovely companion, James. The narrative moves backwards and forwards in time. As she travels we learn about their separate childhoods, how Russell, an only child, moved into a neighbouring farm and was absorbed into Otto’s large family. We learn how both boys meet Etta when she becomes the local school teacher. Russell had a childhood accident so when war breaks out he is unable to join the army and becomes very friendly with Etta while Otto is serving his country. As Etta’s journey progresses somehow the link between the characters seems to strengthen and in a way their past histories become blurred and mixed so that in the end the true events are puzzling, left for you to interpret. Hypnotic and a joy to read, this is a delightful, fascinating tale, magical, lyrical, a very special book indeed. ~ Sarah Broadhurst

Sarah Broadhurst

Etta and Otto and Russell and James Synopsis

Genuinely moving. (Guardian). Delightful. (Mail on Sunday). Charming, fresh, touching...cuts through to the heart. (Sunday Times). 'Tell me about home, please. Tell me about the weather. About the heat or dust or still-ness. Anything. And tell me about you. I keep your photo on the side without the gun. For balance.' This is a love story that spans fifty years, three lives, two continents and an ocean. It tells of school teacher Etta, who settles in the Canadian prairies during the Great Depression and of the two pupils who fall in love with her: Russell, a city boy who takes to farming despite his twisted leg, and Otto, who struggles in school but always tries hard - even when he's sent to fight a war in a distant land. It is a story of love and joy, pain and passion, memory and forgetting - and one incredible journey. It is the story of Etta and Otto and Russell and James.

Etta and Otto and Russell and James Reader Reviews

In addition to our Lovereading expert opinion some of our Reader Review Panel were also lucky enough to read and review this title.

  • Angela O'Donovan - 'I’ve just re-read the last few pages and relived the feeling I had when I finished it a few days ago – a deep hollow feeling of loss that only sometimes makes itself felt when coming to the end of a really satisfying read.' Read full review >
  • Val Brown - 'If you liked the Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry, you will love this.  Etta is in her 80's and decides to walk across Canada to see the Ocean.' Read full review >
  • Julie Bertschin - 'Beautifully written tale of the lives of Etta and Otto. Etta's journey across Canada to reach the ocean is a moving portrayal through letters of their hard lives together. A wonderful story.' Read full review >
  • Judith Smith - 'This is a compelling story about unfilled ambition, unrequited love and memories.' Read full review >
  • Glynis Elliott - 'This novel was beautifully written, quite lyrical in fact.' Read full review >
  • Judith Sharp - 'I really enjoyed it...A strange and unworldly tale unfolds.  If you like Garrison Keillor then you will like this.' Read full review >
  • Emma Halford - 'A sweeping, bittersweet tale of journeys, memories recalled and reconstructed and the paradox of distance - emotional and physical -  in bringing people closer.' Read full review >
  • Cathy Small - 'An enjoyable read with an easy to read storyline. It is moving in places where the characters tried to rearrange their lives and their time with the changes.' Read full review >
  • Kerry Bridges - 'I loved this book and I would recommend it to fans of Rachel Joyce and Alexander McCall Smith.  One of my favourite books this year.' Read full review >
  • Alison Layland - 'A slightly surreal, moving story of love and friendship.'
  • Victoria Emerson - 'My favourite book of the year.' Read full review >
  • Rebecca Cockeram - 'Not as good as I hoped it would be.' Read full review >

Etta and Otto and Russell and James Press Reviews

'Writing that easily equals that of the Booker-winning Richard Flanagan...[and] as readable and gripping as any thriller. Only the thrills offered by this bright new star of literature are metaphysical and unexpected and will leave you thinking on a new level about the connections between men, women and places.' The Times

'Beautifully written...this deserves to follow in the footsteps of 2014's big debut novels The Miniaturist and Elizabeth Is Missing.' Daily Express

'Intriguing... a clear and beautifully unadorned prose style... Hooper has written an interesting, nuanced and genuinely moving book.' Guardian

'Hooper has more or less nailed the 'Amelie charm with this sweet, disarming story of lasting love ...Hooper shows great restraint in balancing the quirky with the universal, blurring the lines between them. This may be the best novel to meaningfully feature windblown dust. Hooper's steady hand creates the perfect setup for the unexpected. To paraphrase Wallace Stevens: A man and a woman are one. Two men, a woman and a coyote are one.' New York Times

'Luminous debut...there's a lovely musicality to her prose - care and attention have been spent on the rhythms and melody of her words...wonderfully tender.' Sunday Express

'Her debut novel is a magical, big-hearted book about one woman's walk to the sea. If Wes Anderson's stylised dream worlds make you happy, you need a copy of Etta and Otto and Russell and James.' Elle Magazine

'A fan of Audrey Niffenegger and Alice Munro, Hooper's sense of playfulness comes across in the book's gentle magical realism' The Observer

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All versions of this book

ISBN: 9780241003343
Publication date: 27/08/2015
Publisher: Penguin Books Ltd
Format: Paperback

ISBN: 9780241003329
Publication date: 29/01/2015
Publisher: Fig Tree an imprint of Penguin Books Ltd
Format: Hardback

Book Information

ISBN: 9780241003343
Publication date: 27th August 2015
Author: Emma Hooper
Publisher: Penguin Books Ltd
Format: Paperback
Pagination: 304 pages
Genres: Reader Reviewed Books, eBook Favourites, Family Drama, Literary Fiction, Reading Groups,
Categories: Modern & contemporary fiction (post c 1945),

About Emma Hooper

Raised in Alberta, Canada, Emma Hooper brought her love of music and literature to the UK, where she received a doctorate in Musico-Literary studies at the University of East-Anglia and currently lectures at Bath Spa University. A musician, Emma performs as the solo artist Waitress for the Bees, and was awarded a Finnish Cultural Knighthood. She also performs with the Stringbeans Quartet and has toured with Peter Gabriel and Toni Braxton. She lives in Bath, UK, but goes home to Canada to cross-country ski whenever she can.   Author photo © Martin Tompkins

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