Add Where The Light Enters to your Goodreads TBR:
Published on the 17th September, 2019 by Bantam Australia, part of the Penguin Random House Group.
Angus & Robertson:
Australian RRP: $32.99
Genre: Historical Fiction.
Page Count: 672
My Rating: 3 out of 5 stars.
Sypnosis from Penguin Books Australia:
A huge thank you to Penguin Random House Australia for inviting me to be a part of this blog tour and interviewing author Sara Donati to celebrate the release of her newest novel, Where The Light Enters, all thoughts are my own.
This is a follow up novel to the author’s The Gilded Hour but I feel like it certainly sits comfortably on its own. I certainly think that the story of cousins Dr Sophie Savard and her dearest cousin, Anna Savard, is more of a character journey rather than plot, although there is a lingering mystery underlying throughout this book, too.
As a genre, I really enjoy Historical Fiction, the ability to transport the reader to another time and place, immersing them in a completely different setting! Sara Donati’s hugely vast setting of Nineteenth Century New York, where her Dr Sophie Savard returns after suffering a personal loss. I did feel so sad for Sophie having to grieve her husband, I feel like her characters, namely Sophie and Anna, were really strongly fleshed out and I absolutely adored their dedication and determination to help the impoverished women that society would generally frown upon.
Furthermore, both ladies utterly adored one another and relied on one another through thick and thin, Anna providing comfort to Sophie as they mourned together and attempt to figure out what, or whom, is causing these young women to fall victim to foul play.
Whilst the characters were absolutely fascinating and engaging to read about, I found the writing to be highly filled with every little detail, from Anna and Sophie’s day to day activities, to just every little detail. Unfortunately, this is where it fell flat for me, I found myself getting lost amongst the description, it taking away from the main plot and mystery of the story.
This shall conclude my review, but if you continue to read on, which I hope you will, you’ll find my interview with Sara Donati. Thank you again to Penguin Random House Australia for this review and author interview opportunity.
Author Interview with Sara Donati:
1. You clearly put so much thought and research into your novels, I love that! I wonder though, what is your process for outlining your characters? For the role that you give each character and their voice, how do you outline them so they just leap so vividly off the pages?
It’s great to hear that my characters leap off the page, as that’s what every novelist is aiming for. Thank you.
I wish I had a simple answer for this question, but it’s a complex process and unpredictable. Sometimes a character comes to me from something I’ve read in a scholarly text (footnotes are chocked full of interesting but peripheral characters). Sometimes I can’t really explain how a character shows up in my head. Once the idea has presented itself, I dig into researching similar people of the time and place. I take bits from all over and quilt it all together.
Mostly I think it has to do with long conversations in my head between myself and the character. They can be quite opinionated.
2. What was the moment that you absolutely felt like you had a yearning to get your stories out there and told? What or whom was your biggest inspiration?
I started writing short stories as a teenager, but the real compulsion came during graduate school. I was analyzing field data, interviews with people who live in a very remote, very isolated village in the Alps near the Austrian-Swiss border. To get people to talk naturally while recording it’s important to make them forget the recording device, and that can be best accomplished by bringing up subjects that are emotional — funny or joyful or tragic experiences. I talked to women of all ages, women who lived very circumscribed lives. Of course they have stories to tell, but they are seldom asked. My questions opened a creaky door, and I learned a great deal about their lives, their wishes and fears.
Not long after I finished and got my doctorate I was listening to one of the recordings and it occurred to me that nobody in the world would ever know about the things I had heard, first because these people are isolated, and second because they speak a very old and difficult dialect of Swiss German (roughly the equivalent of Chaucerian English). I do speak it, and that opened the door for me. And I realized I didn’t want to keep the stories to myself. It felt wrong to do that. The result was my first novel, Homestead (written under my own name, Rosina Lippi) which won the PEN/Hemingway award.
3. I’m curious to know, what does a day in your life look like? Do you set aside a certain time of day for writing and do you follow a procedure as you lay out your writing ideas?
When I was a full time faculty member with a toddler, I had a strict schedule because I had to carve out writing time. I’ve been writing full time for almost twenty years now, and I don’t really have a routine. I need a drill sergeant.
4. You create strong female characters in your novels, something I can never get enough of! What (or whom) were your inspiration for Sophie and Anna?
I spent a couple months researching women physicians who were trained between 1850 and 1890. There were far more of them that you might think, but of course very few compared to the number of male physicians. I read about their courses and training, I found newspaper articles about them (usually, of course, papers reported only on failures). A few female physicians stood out from the others. The one I found most compelling was Mary Putnam Jacobi, who was ground-breaking in her insistence that female physicians become scientists and stop seeing themselves as maternal figures.
5. Something I always enjoy knowing is what authors enjoy reading! Is there anything that you’ve read and particularly enjoyed lately?
I read across genres. Probably the novel that I most recently read that will stick with me is Karin Slaughter’s The Last Widow. I’m a huge fan of all her work. I’m also just about finished with Whitehead’s Underground Railroad, which is masterful. And little by little I’m getting through Mark Twain’s Complete Correspondence.
6. Thank you so much for taking the time out to answer these questions, I just love learning about author’s craft and what inspires them! May I close by asking – if there is one piece of advice you could give anyone who is yearning to write, what would that be?
If you love telling stories, do that, but do it for its own sake. If fame and fortune follow, it will only be because you sat down and got to work, every day.