While Oscar Pellegrino has had bursts of creativity, he finds himself in a creative slump again. Fleeing from himself into Russia to visit his mother’s birthplace, he himself undergoes a transformation to become the slave of the Sampo.
Oscar seems like he got all the wrong things from his mother, and it seems fitting that the Sampo, while bringing Oscar’s creations to life, seems to be sucking the life out of his mother. Is it a metaphor of the Sampo’s abilities? Is it really happening? Oscar refuses to ask himself these questions for fear of the answers. It is a story of magic having its price, yet with an air of reality that makes the reader doubt his or her own mind.
Sarah is just a rotten egg. She’s ambitious, driven and an all around killer. I felt like she was responsible for all of the failures in Oscar’s life – her and his mother do an excellent job of breaking him If it wasn’t for them, Oscar could have held it together! Instead he’s off on a chase in Russia, which begins his rollercoaster ride to the top of fashion and back down.
Something the author brought in for me was that the fashion houses were always undergoing changes, their popularity changing over time. I’ve never been very interested in fashion, but I do know that certain clothes suit certain people. This is an exploration of the concept of that it is ‘truly the clothes that make the woman’. Anyone can look good in Oscar’s clothes.
I didn’t understand why Ben would destroy the dress. Veronica wears the dresses without any ill effects. Some of the people just seem so suspicious. I think it is somewhat absurd that ordinary people would believe that dresses can have such an effect on people – that’s what the novel seems to ask the reader. This reminded me of the feminist ideas that are always being rolled around somewhere in the world. It is ‘always’ the woman’s fault for being raped, because if she didn’t dress provocatively, no one would have been raped.
While the drawn-out descriptions of colours and tastes might put you off, instead read them as another insight into Oscar’s mind. The text is beautifully written and edited. I wasn’t even put off by a small detail being out of place, in fact the world felt so complete to me that I stepped into it and I was lost within it while reading. I finished reading this novel feeling like something profound had happened to me while reading it. This is what I expected from Strum, but failed to find.
Even if literary fiction isn’t your thing, I really suggest giving this novel a go. While the beginning is a little slow, it speeds up until you can’t bear to put it down. I became so invested in the outcome of Oscar’s designing that I continued thinking about it even when I put it down.
I think I’d give this 4-5 stars. It’s unlikely that I will re-read it so I can’t give it an unequivocal 5 stars, but it’s so worth reading even if you have just a crumb of interest in literature.