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Etta and Otto and Russell and James - January (2015) book club

(132 Posts)
CariGransnet (GNHQ) Mon 15-Dec-14 10:44:28

Before we start on the mulled wine get bogged down in festive preparations, we thought we'd get the thread up and running for those who won a copy of Etta to chat about the book and add their thoughts and questions.

You can read more about the book/author here

EmmaHooper Wed 04-Feb-15 17:06:21


I struggled to finish a confusing book, if I was supposed to read more into the significance of James, the Papier-mâché Mâché figures and Ettas journey then I am afraid my imagination was not up to it. What was the reporter all about? Was it all a dream for Etta and had she been in the care home all along? Thank you Gransnet for sending me this book, I truly wanted to love it, but sadly couldn't.

Hi Norrinan, I’m going to refer you back to my answer to Candelle about Bryony where I said, in terms of Bryony, she comes along as another generation, to contrast with Etta. She’s from a much later time, where women wear business suits and have urban lives and careers. Despite this difference, at her core she shares the same type of hopes and longing and personal sadnesses that Etta does. I wanted to show this connection across generations.

EmmaHooper Wed 04-Feb-15 17:06:54


Thank you for the opportunity to read this thought provoking, original book - I enjoyed it very much.

I loved the language and the pace of the book which captured the ages of the characters and the rural Canadian setting perfectly.
The only character I was unsure of was James, so I would like to ask Emma was he a coyote -real or imagined and was his name significant as there was a 'James - nephew/child who never lived ' in Etta's memory jogging list?
Well done for a first novel, something different and honest.

Hi Rosannie, James was indeed a coyote (an animal we have quite a few of on the Canadian prairies), and I did want his name to resonate with that of the lost nephew James. There’s a bit of a theme in the book of family ties over time and space and, sometimes, reason. Etta’s naming the coyote James brings him into the family to some extent… . As for whether he was real or imagined, I think I need to turn to James himself: “it could be everything, it could be nothing, what you’re making up. You shouldn’t let that bother you…”

EmmaHooper Wed 04-Feb-15 17:07:25


On the whole, I found this both intriguing and rather charming. The love between Etta, Otto and Russell was gently depicted, and the impoverished lifestyle was well portrayed.
It was an original and imaginative story, and I enjoyed the style in which it was written.
However, like many other reviewers, I was left bewildered by the ending. I am going to pick it up again soon, and read the final few pages to see if I can make sense of it.

I wonder whether Emma Hooper could shed some light on the ending please? (Of course, I rather like the fact that we are all discussing the ending - there can be many different outcomes.)

You’ve answered you own question already smile. Like you say, there can be many different outcomes. That’s what I want. I don’t want to have the final say on this; I’d rather you trusted your instinct. What did you think had happened when you got to the end? That’s the right answer!

EmmaHooper Wed 04-Feb-15 17:07:50


The writing style of Melissa is most unusual. The way the characters and threads are interwoven makes for a fascinating and intriguing read. Where did the idea of a talking Coyote come from?

I wanted Etta to have a companion for a least part of her journey, but I also knew that, up until Bryony turns up at least, it should be human. Etta’s escaping from the world of people for a while, so she would need an animal companion, almost like the spirit guides of native American stories. I decided to make James a coyote because coyotes are half-way between dogs and wolves, between the familiar and protective and the wild and dangerous….

EmmaHooper Wed 04-Feb-15 17:08:23


I started reading the book quite soon after I received it but have to confess it was not the genre I would normally read and gave up after a few chapters.

I was galvanized into action last week when I realised January was almost half over and I had read some of the reviews already posted.

I am so glad I picked it up again.

I found the book to be fascinating as I tried to understand the characters and the story being portrayed.

Often at the end of a book I give little further thought to it but this time I have been mulling it over to try and understand it.

Was Etta journeying in the afterlife and did the others meet her there?

Thanks for a thought provoking read!

Although it is at times magical or removed somewhat from reality, I imagined Etta to be journeying ‘for real’ on earth, and not in the afterlife (not yet anyway…). As to whether she eventually ends up there and meets the others, well, that would have to be the subject of a sequel…!

bumblebee Mon 09-Feb-15 15:11:15

Many thanks to Gransnet and Penguin books for sending me a copy of the January 2015 book club recommendation - 'Etta and Otto and Russell and James' by Emma Hooper. I really appreciate it.

Unfortunately, I was unable to make the online web chat with author Emma Hooper. However, it's really interesting reading her responses to all the questions above.

Full book review has been uploaded.