Friday, June 13, 2014

The Girl at the Lion d'Or

From the back cover:
A beautifully controlled and powerful story of love and conscience, will and desire which begins when a mysterious young girl arrives to take up a post at the seedy Hotel du Lion d'Or in a small French town in the mid-1930s.

Sebastian Faulks is a master storyteller. What else can I say? The story was beautiful, and compelling.  The writing was perfect and lyrical. Reading his sentences was a pleasure.

Anne herself had little vanity about her body, though sometimes she felt a vague gratitude towards it for what it had taken her through. When she looked at her ankles and feet, so soft they seemed almost unused, or gazed in the mirror at her dark eyes, which were unlined and full of light, she wondered where she carried her experiences.  Perhaps they lay stored in microscopic cells in her blood, or perhaps they lay waiting to ambush her in her mind.  The body itself seemed full of health and latent energy; the physical contrasts of girl and woman, still not quite resolved, gave it charm.

I've read only one other novel by Sebastian Faulks.  Birdsong is also a beautifully written, and powerful story.  It is perhaps his most well known and appreciated novel, and though I loved it, I could quite possibly love this subtle story a bit more.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

The Coldest Girl in Coldtown

Tana woke lying in a bathtub.  Her legs were drawn up, her cheek pressed against the cold metal of the faucet. A slow drip had soaked the fabric on her shoulder and wetted locks of her hair.  The rest of her, including her clothes, was still completely dry, which was kind of a relief.  Her neck felt stiff; her shoulders ached.  She looked up dazedly at the ceiling, at the blots of mold grown into Rorschach patterns. For a moment, she felt completely disoriented.  Then she scrambled up onto her knees, skin sliding on the enamel, and pushed aside the shower curtain.

This is how Holly Black's vampire novel begins. Her book is an original take on the whole YA vampire theme.  However, despite the interesting new world these vampires live in, one thing remains constant-when compared with other books in the vampire genre--there's an extremely attractive, powerful, vampire who falls in love with a girl. I thought I was really late in getting to this story but it turns out it was published just last September so I'm not that behind.

I happened on this one and had put it on my to-read list, and then promptly forgotten about it.  Until a new friend, upon discovering that we both read YA, loaned me her copy of Tithe by Holly Black.  I read that in a day, guiltily stealing any free time from my two small children, and then the follow up, Ironside.  These last two are about fairies not vampires, but same type of interesting alternate world, with a beautiful and brave Byronic hero who falls for a girl.  These things alone make for compulsive reads for me, but what sets Holly Black's writing apart and has made me love her books, is that her protagonists, at least in these 3 novels, are strong, fierce girls who are always the real hero in the story.  Not just because they do something to sacrifice themselves in some way, which they do, but they're smart. They are the ones that figure everything out and come up with the way to resolve whatever impossible predicament they find themselves in, and while it may seem predictable, I liked knowing that they were going to ultimately save themselves, not just by being brave but by being their smart, clever selves.

Recommended Reads: The Coldest Girl in Coldtown, Tithe, and Ironside