Autumn Sea - What reviewers have said
Autumn Sea ... Un unfinished Beauty
Hoppenbrouwers crafts each scene to stand on its own, as though it doesn't need the continuity of neighboring scenes, like the lovers in the story who try to pretend that they can get along without each other. Ironically they can and do, but they are richer for having blended a little at the edges. The writing is breathtaking, unrelenting, and oddly incomplete. To the unfinished end, beautiful writing makes this story worthwhile.
In language that is simultaneously simple and poetic, the author describes the relationship with Lesly from its beginning through its evolution, including what many will see as its ending, but which is in reality another beginning and another transformation along the relationship's continuum.
This latest publication from Astarte Shell Press of Portland is a beautifully written book, filled with much wisdom about how we can work on the transformations of significant relationships.
Toke Hoppenbrouwers must be a fine psychologist, wise and sensitive. Her narrator's flashbacks to her childhood in World War II in Europe are very moving as are the scenes with her father. She writes: "Trusting the unfolding of life does not come naturally to me; I tend to live as if I have extraordinary control over the happenings in my life."
In these dreadful politically correct times with labels and categories for all of us, I'd like to emphasize that Autumn Sea is not just a love story for lesbians, it's a love story for all of us- and so good that one wants to read more from this author.
From: Maine Times , September 1996
Autumn Sea is the engaging love story of a white woman from the Netherlands residing in America, and her African-American lover. With an unusual flair for expressive writing and its multilayered development of character and storyline, Toke Hoppenbrouwers' Autumn Sea is one of the best of the new small press novels. Toke Hoppenbrouwers is an author to watch for!
Midwest Book Review
Reading Autumn Sea was an eye opening experience for me. Having been raised in the south, in an extremely conservative family, a novel dealing with the lesbian lifestyle is very out of place on the shelves of my personal library. My only motivation in purchasing this book was to please a dear friend who had strongly suggested it. The insight and understanding that I gained from Autumn Sea has made a permanent mark in the way I view this tender subject. The book made me laugh, cry and even sigh a few times. Each page was thoroughly delightful. The candidness of Ms. Hoppenbrouwers' writing made me feel as though she had allowed me to browse her own personal diary. The words were so heartfelt and touching, that I can't help but wonder if that's not exactly what happened. The book was tastefully written yet she was frank when she needed to be. In one scene she snuggles with her mother one afternoon and some long suppressed hurts were healed, and forgiveness extended in the process. I couldn't help but cry and long for one more chance to snuggle with my own mother. The most important thing I gained from reading this book is the ability to accept someone who is different than me, and not to try to judge them for their differences.
A reader from the south.
Autumn Sea … Traveling into the Interior
What has been dealt with is the ability to love, forgive and recover from loss. The novel is both sensual and intelligent, and its emotional resonance puts the reader inside the relationship it so powerfully evokes. The writing of this book reflects an author wise about love, relationships and life.
Descriptions of journeys crisscross the pages of this story of women. Told in first person, as conversation and in flashback, the narrator's story meshes the events of her past with the transformation she experiences in the present. The journey of discovery, evolving as life unfolds, is recalled in muted, understated tones in Autumn Sea , and it is a journey well worth taking.
The language is a seductive blending of the poetic and prosaic, the style distinct for its grace and economy. It moves the reader easily along from country to country- Israel, France, India, Italy- and home to Holland to revisit the World War II childhood, and reconcile with parents and past. One commendable and striking aspect of her writing is the masterful way she uses nature- and landscape, both exterior and interior- to reveal her feelings. These descriptions interspersed throughout the book, as well as letters to a past lover, Rachel, add dimension and insight into the character of the narrator, a woman of depth and sensitivity.
Autumn Sea is a literate and passionate novel that, in its most simplistic terms, deals with women loving women, and the pain and re-birth that occurs when powerful relationships are terminated. The nameless narrator is a white woman from the Netherlands (much like author Hoppenbrouwers) whose five-year love affair with Lesly, a strong and complex African-American woman has come to a painful end.
Hoppenbrouwers doesn't take a false step as she lays out the pain and sadness that comes with realizing that accepting another person is often a greater challenge than loving them. Autumn Sea is a haunting and dense story with finely crafted characters.