The plot is a slow-burner, but as the exploits of Binding’s own characters become increasingly entangled with those created by Ibsen, the pace quickens, and lives are eventually turned upside down by revelations that rock both intertwined fictional worlds. The Stranger from the Sea oozes water – from the title itself to the storm-driven waves off the Kentish coast to the fierce rainstorm towards the end of the tale ... In its sensitive depiction of youthful sexuality, the anguish of failed relationships and the rights of women in a male-dominated world, Paul Binding’s novel is a worthy tribute to the great Norwegian playwright.
Binding too often relies on Martin’s journalism assignments to propel the plot forward instead of a palpable yearning to discover identity or belonging. At times, the intimate interactions between Martin and Hans lack emotional impact. One can’t help but wish our protagonist would oppose his circumstances more vigorously like Ibsen’s characters do ... Unlike Ibsen, Binding seems resistant to explore such norms beyond the surface level, much less violate them ... Binding is most renowned for his scholarly work and literary criticism ... The scope and rigor of his historical research is a true accomplishment. He renders 19th-century Dengate colorfully, and his period dialogue scans as believable, but it yields a tepid reading experience.
Its first and strongest impression is that the author has mastered the delicate art of making the main character speak and think like he belongs in his time and place ...It’s enjoyable reading for that alone ... Perhaps there is no story, plot-wise. Stranger from the Sea is mainly a character study. By the time the book ends, it has come to seem like a coming-of-age tale ... Overall, Stranger from the Sea is an uneven book, launching off in different directions without quite arriving at a destination ... after a lot of drama and mystery, the story sort of fizzles out into resignation. Like real life for most people. The point might be that one needs to read the original play in order to get the point of its retelling.