Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Bookshelf: Jennifer Donnelly


A few years ago my mother bequeathed me with Jennifer Donnelly's "The Tea Rose" and I absolutely loved the cover but at any given time I have six or seven books in queue so I slipped it to the bottom of the pile. I definitely made a mistake in doing that because this book was a fantastic ride through 19th century England. Jack The Ripper is on the loose cutting up women and in the midst of that terror and uncertainty is a perfectly innocent romance between Fiona (17) and Joe (20) who have grown up together in the impoverished neighborhood of Whitechapel. They meet when they can at the river and add pittance to their coffee tin where they keep their savings - for their dream of one day opening a tea shop together. It's innocent and simple and beautiful and you can't help but flinch in knowing that something is going to go wrong and tear this union apart, otherwise there would be no story.
Unfortunately, I went on Amazon when I was only fifty or so pages in and read what I thought would be a simple summary but what ended up giving away so much that it ruined the first two hundred pages for me. Suffice it to say Fiona's quaint but happy world comes crashing down around her and forces her into the unknown. And that's when the story gets good. So good, in fact, that although I am overwhelmed with allergies this week and consequently exhausted and sick feeling, I stayed up until midnight last night (for me that is completely unheard of on a week night) because I simply couldn't close my eyes until I knew what happened.
What I loved about Donnelly's writing is that she travels seamlessly between past and present. Chapters often begin with the present and then jump back into the past before resurfacing in the present again. I found it made this 544 page book seem not nearly that long. But then again, I'm partial to mammouth-size books. And what's even better... there's a part deux, "The Winter Rose", which I will have to add to the queue.
Up next I'm thinking of reading "Chasing Harry Winston" by Lauren Weisberger. I read "The Devil Wears Prada" before the movie came out and as usual enjoyed the book more than the movie. "CHW" was optioned to Universal Studios a year and a half ago to be made into a movie and so obviously I must read the book first.
In regards to my own quest to make the NYT's bestselling list, there's an agent currently reading the manuscript. The ENTIRE manuscript. That's a first for me. Usually they just ask for 30-50 ages. So cross your fingers, your toes, your eyes, everything and wish me luck. I've been a pretzel for nearly a week now...


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