Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Bookshelf: Jennifer Donnelly; Part Deux


Jennifer Donnelly's "The Winter Rose" has been sitting on my coffee table along with a pile of "to be read" books since the summer and after finishing "Room" I needed something a bit less... real? Is that the right word? Realistic? Disturbing? Grammatically incorrect? Remember that I very much loved reading "Room" but I was glad to get away from abductors and while I'm still not quite ready to read that behemoth about Elizabeth Taylor's torrid love affair I thought, well why not read a 707 page novel? It's like a mid-afternoon snack to me. No biggie.
If you remember, last Spring I think it was I read Jennifer Donnelly's first novel "The Tea Rose". I love histoircal fiction (why couldn't I have enjoyed history that much when I was in school?) and after reading "The Winter Rose" Jennifer Donnelly has leapt to the top of my list of favorite histocial fiction authors (Diana Gabaldon comes in at a close second followed by Phillipa Gregory).
While "The Winter Rose" is a complete story on its own, a reader should certainly read "The Tea Rose" first. That being said, I don't really want to go into too much depth because I might give somthing away. Let me just say this, I couldn't put "The Winter Rose" down. When I did I'd start to feel anxious, like the story might go on without me and I'd miss something huge. It's ridiculous, I know, but I feel that way with really great books. I hate to pause them, especially in the middle of something and this book, well you can't really pause anywhere. There was always something huge happening. I swear. It never stopped, action, drama, plot twist, more action. Here's the bare bones... India Slewyn Jones has just graduated from medical school to be a doctor. A woman doctor, which if you know your history was not looked well upon back then. It's amazing to think of everything women are able to do today when a little over a hundred years ago they weren't even allowed to wear pants (don't get me started on corsetts, I had to wear one this summer for a wedding and let me tell you how horrible it is not to be able to take a deep breath, let alone eat the meal!). Anyways, enough doddling. Back to the story. So India has just graduated and is ready to change the world. She comes from a horribly wealthy family that disowned her when she decided to go into the medical field (she was expected to marry, sit up straight and host dinner parties - thank goodness I wasn't born back then, but I do enjoy reading about it). Meanwhile, in East London, in the shadiest section of town along the river is the Bark, a bar frequented by Sid Malone, the scariest, wealthiest, and dirtiest crook you'll ever meet. He's got a hand in everything from opium dens to whore houses and he's got a right nasty bunch of men to clean up after him. There are also a few characters from the previous book and so I daren't mention them for fear of spoiling something, but let me say this. If you like books with great character development, organic dialogue, crooks, the upper class, the working class, money, guns, jewels, sex, filth, and something crazy happening every time you start a new chapter then you'll absolutely love "The Winter Rose". If none of those things interest you then I can't imagine what's left for you to read... manuals? Don't let the 700 pages intimidate you. By the end you'll be wishing it would continue. And guess what? It does. But we have to wait until August for the next book. Lucky for me I have a ton of books waiting on the coffee table to be read before then.

A word on "Someday This Pain Will Be Useful To You"... I waited to long. My procrastination in writing that review has caused me to forget what I had wanted to say about the book. I loved it, that much I remember. It was a quick read and I liked that. I also remember being so annoyed with the main character because his flaws are what drove the plot. I loved that about it too. You can be annoyed by someone and love them at the same time. It's entirely possible, I assure you. Anyways, I am embarassed that I have nothing more to say. Lesson about procrastination learned.

One more note... I've been annoyed with my lack of drive in writing this current (my fourth) book. So I was thinking recently about what Laurie Halse Anderson said at her meet and greet in Brookline back in November. She said when her kids were younger she would get up at 4:30AM to write before starting the day. If you know me well then you also know there's absolutely no way I could ever get up that early unless it was for a flight. But I also thought she might be on to something. So I started last week getting up at 6am to write. I get about 45 minutes in before I have to get ready for work. It's actually really nice, sitting in bed, letting my mind wake up in the book. It might end up, when I've read back through the draft, that being only half awake is a really horrible idea (it might not even make any sense or be real words, who knows) but I think for now it's a good idea and I'm going to stick with it until the draft is complete or until I can't function that early anymore. Wish me luck.
Happy reading!

1 comment

  1. I used to get up at 430 and write, but now my body just refuses to let me.


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