cover image Strega


Johanne Lykke Holm, trans. from Swedish by Saskia Vogel. Riverhead, $26 (208p) ISBN 978-0-593-53967-5

Translator Holm’s stylish and spellbinding gothic debut follows a group of nine young women who arrive for seasonal work at the Olympic Hotel near the remote Alpine village of Strega. The hotel, once a playground for the rich, now sits empty, and the women spend their days cleaning and preparing for guests who never arrive. Punchy, rhythmic sentences capture the mixture of boredom and anticipation that permeates their work. Amid the routine, the narrator, Rafa, develops a bond with Alba, but their idyll is broken when a festival brings a raucous party of guests to the hotel. That night, after one of the women performs a dance routine for the guests, she disappears. A subsequent search yields nothing but her dress, which Alba finds. Holm has a sure hand in conveying the atmosphere of dread that ensues and colors Rafa and Alba’s relationship as the women resume their routine and summer winds to a close. Rafa’s narration, meanwhile, crystallizes into an unsettling reckoning with her vulnerability in which she contemplates how “a girl’s life could at any point be turned into a crime scene.” Readers won’t be able to turn away from this gorgeous and captivating work. (Nov.)