Powerfully inventive and atmospheric, a modern gothic story of nine young women sent to work at a remote Alpine hotel and what happens when one of them goes missing
With toiletries, hairbands, and notebooks in her bag, and at her mother’s instruction, a nineteen-year-old girl leaves her parents’ home and the seaside town she grew up in. Out the train window, Rafa sees the lit-up mountains and perfect trees—and the Olympic Hotel waiting for her perched above the small village of Strega. There, she and eight other girls receive the stiff black uniforms of seasonal workers and move into their shared dorm. But while they toil constantly to perform their role and prepare the hotel for guests, none arrive. Instead, they contort themselves daily to the expectations of their strict, matronly bosses without clear purpose and, in their spare moments, escape to the herb garden, confide in each other, and quickly find solace together. Finally, the hotel is filled with people for a wild and raucous party, only for one of the girls to disappear. What follows are deeper revelations about the myths we teach young women, what we raise them to expect from the world, and whether a gentler, more beautiful life is possible.
In stimulating and uninhibited imagery, Johanne Lykke Holm builds a world laced with the supernatural, filled with the secrecy and potential energy of girls on the cusp of womanhood. An allegory for the societal rites, expectations of women, and violence we too easily allow, Strega builds like a spell that keeps exerting its powers long after reading.
About the Author
Johanne Lykke Holm is a writer and translator. Her novel Strega was a finalist for the Nordic Council Literature Prize, won the PEN Translates Award, and was short-listed for the European Union Prize for Literature. She lives in Copenhagen with her family.
Advance praise for Strega:
“A novel that consumes, that interrupts its reader’s present. . . . Holm’s world is one of richness, of allegory, where blood and milk and mold are common, recurring substances, and color is used generously like an impasto painting. . . . the novel’s commentary on patriarchal violence lands thoughtfully on the world historical map. . . . when you close Strega, you continue to feel its presence.” —Los Angeles Review of Books
“Captures the nausea-inducing anxiety of awaiting the worst. . . . Holm embraces the slow build to a horrific reveal with skill.” —PopSugar
“Stylish and spellbinding. . . . Readers won’t be able to turn away from this gorgeous and captivating work.” —Publishers Weekly, starred review
“A fever dream meditation on girlhood, female friendships and unnamed dangers. . . . Strega is riveting: surreal, ominous. . . . [and] sharp in its observations about the harms that girls submit to when they become women.” —Shelf Awareness
“Holm masterfully uses imagery and symbolism, offering a modern Gothic allegory of the often degrading treatment of and expectations placed on young women.” —Booklist
“Elegiac. . . . Lykke Holm’s prose—full of litanies of strange and striking imagery—is, without a doubt, the book's greatest strength.” —Kirkus Reviews
“A work of mythic reinvention about the power of girls coming of age in a world hell bent on containing their passions and imaginations. . . . Strega left me breathless, angry, and then thrilled by the dare it leaves in the reader's lap.” —Lidia Yuknavitch, author of Thrust and The Chronology of Water
“Utterly immersive, Strega is a modern-day fairy tale in the primeval sense, a visceral, hallucinatory allegory of coming into womanhood. It’s at once timeless and completely new, with surprising and evocative prose—a glittering translation of a masterful work.” —Julia Fine, author of The Upstairs House and What Should Be Wild
“Strega is the kind of book Lolita would write if she wrote like Thomas Mann. Johanne Lykke Holm uses the young women as her stage and transports you to another world, where everything is scenography. As uncompromising and brilliant as she is disturbing, I am forever devoted to the cult of her.” —Olga Ravn, author of Booker International finalist The Employees