Book Review – Coming Up For Air by Sarah Leipciger

Three extraordinary lives intertwine across oceans and centuries.

On the banks of the River Seine in 1899, a heartbroken young woman takes her final breath before plunging into the icy water. Although she does not know it, her decision will set in motion an astonishing chain of events. It will lead to 1950s Norway, where a grieving toymaker is on the cusp of a transformative invention, all the way to present-day Canada, where a journalist battling a terrible disease, drowning in her own lungs, risks everything for one last chance to live.

Moving effortlessly across time and space and taking inspiration from an incredible true story, Coming Up for Air is a bold, richly imagined novel about love, loss, and the immeasurable impact of every human life.

Published 19th March 2020 by Doubleday/Transworld UK

Coming Up For Air is a book that I hadn’t heard of until just over a week ago. I’m surprised, because after reading it I genuinely think it’s a book that deserves more attention and needs shouting about more. I know some of my fellow book pals would adore it too.

Telling three different stories in three different time frames, they appear at first unconnected although water and drowning soon become an apparent theme. In 1899 Paris, an unknown and unidentified young woman – L’Inconnue – is pulled lifeless from the Seine. In 1950’s Norway, a grieving toy maker is on the verge of a lifesaving invention and in the present day Canada, forty year old Cystic Fibrosis sufferer, Anouk, awaits a life changing lung transplant.

I adored this book, the writing is lyrical and richly descriptive – particularly L’inconnue’s story which was my favourite. The individual stories are told in alternating chapters, and despite the apparent lack of connection, each one was easy enough to fall back into and there was no disjointedness to the book at all.

It’s towards the end where the connection is revealed and it both took me by surprise and moved me intensely. With some fact woven into the fictitious story, it was a revelation and incredibly interesting. I genuinely don’t think I will do a certain aspect of my jobs training again without thinking of this book. I often say that a book will stay with me, but this one absolutely will.

I feel I’ve had to be vague, because I really don’t want to ruin the book for anyone who reads it. I would urge anyone who enjoys entangled timelines, moving and poetic writing with a literary feel that will both engage, challenge and move you, to give this book a go. A unique, fascinating story – I recommend it highly

Thanks to the publisher for my gifted copy

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