Sunday, August 30, 2015

The Stockholm Octavo by Karen Engelmann

Title: The Stockholm Octavo
Author: Karen Engelmann
Narrator: Simon Vance
Published: 2012
Published By: Blackstone Audio, Inc.
Format Read: Audio Book
Genre: Historical Fiction
Date Read: August 19 2015
Rating: 2.5/5

1790’s Stockholm Sweden: A bachelor by the name of Emil Larsson raises in the ranks of the city’s society to become a customs secretary among the gambling tables of parlours. At one such establishment he would meet a proprietor and fortune teller by the name of Mrs. Sparrow. A tarot card reading involving an octavo of eight cards, would change the man’s life direction in some dangerous ways. In search for the 8 people represented in the cards, the final supposedly to be his love, Larsson would cross paths with a baroness, an apothecary, a fan maker, his wife and the King Gustav III himself. 

I came across The Stockholm Octavo on Goodreads one day and was intrigued by the idea of uncovering which character would match each of the eight cards. I was not very familiar with 18th century Stockholm, so reading this book was an educational experience for me, although this is a work of fiction. This book tells how the number 8 is an ancient symbol of eternity and the reading of the cards took Mrs. Sparrow and Larsson took 6 days to reveal. Another focus of this story was the art and language of fans. Women of society learned how to flutter their fans and use them as a way of communication, most specifically with men. I was familiar with the importance of a woman being married and how it will advance her family, however I was interested to learn that the career position of a man may also depend on him being married as well. This was the case of Larsson’s position in customs. 

I will admit that this isn’t my favourite century to read about, so I didn’t enjoy it nearly as much as I hoped I would. As I listened to this book in audio format, I often found myself getting confused with all of the characters and the politics of the time. Perhaps if I re-read or re-listened to it again I would pick up on more points I missed the first time around. 

Even though this book wasn’t one of my favourites, I would recommend this to those who are interested in Swedish history involving King Gustav III. It would probably be better read in book format rather than listened to in audio.

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