Tuesday, July 13, 2010
Nonetheless, I want to reiterate my gratitude for the kindness of spirit that pervades the review as a whole. An author wants to tell a story rightly. But she also wants to tell the right story. This review is full of gifts.
A young woman is lost in grief following the death of her twin sister in this tender, quiet work of historical fiction. Carried along by the character’s dreamily melancholy narrative style, readers will drift with Katherine amid the grandeur of Philadelphia’s 1876 Centennial Fair. At the novel’s opening, her grief has reached a breaking point. Employing an effective flash–back-and-forward technique, the author gradually reveals details about the girls’ relationship and the raw feeling of abandonment experienced by Katherine due to a clandestine affair Anna began in the months before her death. Eventually, the circumstances of her sister’s death are uncovered in an exquisitely crafted memory as lovely in its imagery as it is tragic. Ringing less true, however, is the modern feel of the dialogue, given the supposed era. For example, during an argument, Katherine calls her sister a narcissist—a term not yet coined in psychology at the time. While this may not jar all readers, teens with an eye toward historical detail will likely take notice. (Historical fiction. 12 & up)
(Post-post note: My wonderful friends are out there checking dictionaries of all sorts. Narcissistic most assuredly appears in Merriam-Webster, as of 1822; in the OED, narcissism appears as of 1822, with narcissistic appearing in the early 1900s. In either case, as I just noted on Facebook, this is all a brilliant reminder of just how mutating and ever-changing language is. Perfection has long been beyond my reach (but never outside of my desire). As a writer of fiction, whose protagonists are always smarter than I am, I'm going to grant Katherine her slight variation of the Merriam-Webster word, and let her sleep easy tonight.)