Please read this book. I do not use the adjectives ‘charming’ or ‘heartwarming’ lightly, but I really can’t think of any more apt to describe ‘Etta and Otto and Russell and James’. It made me smile, made my heart swell, and sometimes broke it a little too. It is a book of beautiful, simple, spare writing.
Eighty-two-year-old Etta walks away from home because she has never seen the sea, leaving a brief explanatory note for her husband Otto.
Short chapters alternate between past and present, from Etta to those she’s left behind. The book is highly atmospheric without being overly descriptive. The spareness of the style reminded me somewhat of Per Petersen. There is also some use of repetition, which while it seems simple, gives the book a sort of childlike quality.
On waxing lyrical about the book to a friend, I was somewhat disappointed to hear of a similar plot in ‘The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry’. Happily, the novels are not copying each other as per this interview with Emma Hooper: http://www.foyles.co.uk/Emma-Hooper. It doesn’t hurt that Emma Hooper also looks like Amelie Poutain, protagonist of my favourite film.
We’re all scared, most of the time. Life would be lifeless if we weren’t. Be scared, and then jump into that fear. Again and again. Just remember to hold on to yourself while you do it.