The abandoned hotel comes into view. Derelict, windswept.
Who is Mette Jakobsen and how is it I have never heard of her before?
In 2011 she wrote The Vanishing Act about a young girl growing up on a small snow covered island. In October of the same year, a brief story called The Island appeared in The Griffith Review 34, retelling the time she went back to her Danish childhood island home with her adult daughter and friends.
I GREW UP on an island in the Baltic Sea. It was flat and windswept, and I don’t seem to remember it ever being summer. I left when I was twelve. Most of my memories are of the snow and the cold. We lived close to the sea. It was turbulent, grey and dangerous.
The Vanishing Act was shortlisted for the Commonwealth Book Prize in 2012.
In 2016 What the Light Hides was published. This time her story was set in the Blue Mountains featuring a couple coming to terms when the unexpected death of their son at university in Sydney.
Death, loss, grief, fractured relationships and snow (or at least cold climates seem to be her topics of choice), as we see again in her latest book, The Wingmaker. Vega is not only recovering from a broken relationship, but from the after effects of a heart attack. She is an art restorer, about to embark on her biggest project – the restoration of an angel statute that has had its wings broken off. Her father, has an old crumbling seaside hotel that he is slowly restoring with the (inept) help of an ex-army guy suffering from PTSD. This is where she retires to for her restoration of the angel.
As you can see, lots of grief, fragility, decay and putting back the pieces.
There are some beautiful snow scenes, a stranded whale, dive-bombing birds, a zany sister, sad memories, and a tango-dancing troupe of local residents. A gentle, soul-searching read with a wintry European feel.
The angel has the face of a young girl. She has no wings but even without them she is exquisite. I’m certain the marble is White Pentelikon. It has a particular quality to it. A depth that makes her look alive. As though breath and heat are moving beneath her translucent surface.
The angel. I kept expecting her to come to life. But The Wingmaker was not that kind of story. For all it’s ethereal qualities, The Wingmaker was grounded in the real world.
Favourite or Forget:
Forgettable but a lovely tale to wile away a wintry lockdown weekend.
Book 13 of 20 Books of
Book: The Wingmaker Author: Mette Jakobsen ISBN: 9781922330727 Publisher: Text Publishing Date: 3 August 2021 Format: Paperback
- This post was written on the traditional land of the Wangal clan, one of the 29 clans of the Eora Nation within the Sydney basin. This Reading Life acknowledges that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples are this land’s first storytellers.