Wednesday, January 28, 2009

REVIEW: Holding My Breath, by Sidura Ludwig

Holding My Breath, by Sidura Ludwig. Published 2008 by Key Porter Books. Literary Fiction.

Holding My Breath is a coming of age story, about a young Jewish girl named Beth Levy growing up in Canada. It's author Sidura Ludwig's first novel, and it's okay as these things go.

Beth is an only child, and is born into a family dominated by women with strong, conflicting personalities. Her mother Goldie longs for suburban convention and conformity, Beth's aunt Carrie, a skilled seamstress, tries to get by as an unmarried woman with a secret, and her aunt Sarah wants to be a star.

Beth herself is a very ordinary girl, pressured by her mother to lead the kind of life she wanted, filled with tea parties, children, a husband and a pink-collar job. I liked Beth, and all the characters- even unstable, headed-for-trouble Sarah. I liked Carrie best of all, the career woman and the quiet sister, who cares for Beth so beautifully and does her best to keep her niece on a good path. I think a very good novel could be written about this understated, complicated woman.

The book's suspense lies in seeing what path Beth will choose, and how she will come to her decisions. Her choices are lined up and dissected, and her final destination takes shape somewhat predictably, if quickly. In the mean time she faces down challenges, deals with family secrets and tragedies, and confronts the perils of growing up. The family is firmly planted in the Jewish community of Winnipeg and part of Beth's journey involves confronting feelings of difference and anti-Semitism as she steps tentatively beyond it.

On balance I enjoyed Holding My Breath and found it to be a quick, light read. Ludwig's style is somewhat bland and monotonous, but she shows skill in creating different characters and bouncing them off each other. It's not a particularly flashy or exciting novel, but it's solid and good and competent. I'd like to see Ludwig step it up a little next time- vary her writing a little, maybe introduce a little more emotion and a little drama and friction. Along the way the family experiences a huge disruption, but the shock waves barely registered to me- I wish she had made me feel the impact a little more. And that can be said of much of the book- I enjoyed it well enough but I felt like she was holding back. Next time I hope she lets herself go a little.

Rating: BORROW

FTC Disclosure: I received this book for review from the publisher.


avisannschild said...

It sounds like an interesting premise—too bad it wasn't more enjoyable. I love the cover!

Seaside Book worm said...

Thank you for your review on this book I have a copy too. Sorry to hear it was not a keeper. Hope her next one will have more zing. Just a question have you tried a British Jewish Author called Linda Grant? I can't remember the title and would like to get a copy. I read her other one of her's that I felt was a good read. Historical fiction in Israel takes place after or is it before Israel's indepedence in the 1940's.

Sandra said...

"Solid and good and competent" sounds okay to me. I rather like a quiet story myself so I will try this one if my library has it. Nice review.

naida said...

This does sound like an interesting book, even if it wasnt too exciting.
great review.

Zibilee said...

Too bad this wasn't a total winner. The story idea sounds interesting, and
I like the idea of a powerful family of women, but based on your review, I think I'll skip this one.