6,815 book reviews and counting...

Vivian Reviews

Vivian by Christina Hesselholdt, Paul Russell Garrett


Christina Hesselholdt, Paul Russell Garrett

Score pending

1 review

Imprint: Fitzcarraldo Editions
Publisher: Fitzcarraldo Editions
Publication date: 19 Jun 2019
ISBN: 9781910695616

In her new novel, Christina Hesselholdt delves into the world of the enigmatic American photographer, Vivian Maier (1926-2009), whose unique photographic body of work only reached the public by chance.

2 stars out of 5
Rachel Cooke
16 Jun 2019

"playful but unfocused"

In Vivian, the “dramatised scenes” in which different characters all describe the same, usually distinctly weird occurrence, from their own point of view, often work brilliantly. Hesselholdt inhabits them in a way that makes you feel as though she spent time interviewing them... But her own voice is irritating and not only because her observations are frequently banal; having effectively cast a spell on the reader, she keeps breaking it and in a way that serves no real purpose. It’s a device that feels strangely old-fashioned: a postmodernism, flash but clunky, that seems to belong to another decade (the 1980s?) altogether... If [Hesselholdt] sometimes brings Maier vividly to life, this is all too brief and I can’t quite decide how it makes me feel. The mysteries that surround her are not (as if they ever could be) dispelled, which seems like a good thing. But this is no photograph album. It’s hard to imagine turning the pages of Vivian again. They have a fleeting quality: half-hearted and insubstantial, like images taken on a phone that you’re too lazy, or busy, to edit.