The Bear Woman
In 1541, a young woman named Marguerite de La Rocque accompanies her male guardian on one of the first French colonial expeditions to the New World. After a sexual scandal aboard the ship, she is punished and abandoned on an uninhabited island in the North Atlantic, where she faces off against wild animals and the elements, incredibly surviving against all odds. Centuries later, a contemporary author comes across the legend of the Bear Woman and becomes obsessed.
Approaching Marguerite the only way she knows how – by writing – the author is made acutely aware of her own writing process: both as a shield against and as a way of understanding the world she lives in. She finds herself the mother of three young children, enduring a harsh winter and an even colder cultural climate. Gradually, the author’s life becomes intertwined with Marguerite’s, a literary figure as much as a figment of her own imagination. The more the author digs through historical archives, the more uncertain she becomes of who Marguerite really was, and of her own motivations for writing about her.
Penned in an essayistic style in the vein of Marguerite Duras, The Bear Woman is a meditation on womanhood and on the act of writing as much as it is a story of survival – Marguerite’s and the author’s. In her characteristic sparsely elegant prose, leading Scandinavian writer and feminist Karolina Ramqvist tackles questions of what it is to be a woman who writes, as well as what a story is and who has the right to tell it.
With shared themes that transcend the centuries that divide two seemingly very different lives, The Bear Womanoffers insight into the solitary nature of the writing life, and the currency of being a woman then and now.
Netherlands, Nijgh & Van Ditmar
UK, Bonnier Books/Manilla
US/Canada, Coach House Books