tl;dr: and in the beginning, there were Søren and Nora; and it was good
Generally, when I begin a book, I don’t want to know anything about it, especially if it’s a book by an author that I enjoy. I already know that, no matter what the subject or plot, I’ll probably like it, and I like to go into a book or movie as completely untarnished by blurbs and descriptions as much as possible. But when I began this book, I immediately had to find out a crucial plot element of the story: the fate of Søren. The opening chapters quickly lead me to believe something terrible had happened to the beloved priest, and I had to know–for good, or for ill–if he was alive or dead.
I’ll let you decide whether or not you want to solve that mystery before you press on, there are several Goodreads questions and answers on the page for this book that come right out and spoil that little mystery for you. With it out of the way, I was able to stop stressing and enjoy the rest of the book. Which was glorious.
The Saint is the origin story of Nora and Søren. How they met, how their relationship came to be what it is. How Nora, then Eleanor, was introduced to the world of the 8th Circle, Kingsley Edge, and the Underground. Many scenes in the book are hinted at or retold in the previous 4 books, but this is the linear piece, adding in many new layers that make the story evocative, sad, and titillating, all in turns. There’s a moment, about midway through the novel, where Eleanor makes a mistake, and suddenly feels completely alone and that everyone she loves has turned their back on her. We see a vulnerable side to Søren, and how he clearly wrestled with the idea of beginning a relationship with the young Eleanor. Kingsley makes a few appearances here, but not as much as in previous books.
Reisz is able to wrest such emotions from her characters that I’m in turns laughing and weeping, and begging for more.
The story is written in a series of flashbacks, with Nora telling someone the story of her and Søren. The chapters are clearly delineated as to who is speaking: Nora, or Eleanor, and it’s clear that while both women are the same person, there are clear differences in personality between then and now. It’s an excellent framing device, and helpful when the story needs to make certain jumps forward in time, particularly in the period where she and Søren were not speaking.
“You know, no offense, but I’m not sure I believe in God.”
Søren shrugged. “Least of our worries. His existence does not depend on your belief.”
There’s a lot of sadness in this book, maybe more so than the other books in the series thus far. Nora spends a lot of time looking back on her life, seeing mistakes she made, celebrating joy in her life, and thinking over some things she maybe would have done differently. It’s very reflective. As always, I’m salivating over the next book, which I already have at the ready, waiting for my to-do list to get slightly smaller so that I can reward myself again.
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Start from the beginning with The Siren and meet Søren and Nora in a different way.