Monday, August 16, 2010

A Romance on the Surface

This latest is an old favorite of mine - Rosamond Pilcher's Snow in April.  I originally got it out of the Bais Yaakov library of all places, where I read it while waiting for a ride home on a snow day.  I thoroughly enjoyed it at the time and had read it at least twice since then before taking it with me on my trip.  I actually didn't read it down under, but Peryl and Shifra did (actually, Shifra read it on the plane back) and reported back to me.  Both of them said that the ending was rather abrupt, which I recalled was the case, both of them enjoyed the book/writing, as I did, but both of them said the entire story felt rather unfilled, which I hadn't particularly noticed in my previous readings.

When Peryl described the characters as somewhat under realized, I defended the book as a typical English/Scottish one of certain type, where the author's restrained/refined sensibilities come in to play to make the characters seem a little bit dull at times - it's not that they are actually so... unhuman... but that the proper English stiff upper lip of both the writing and the characters themselves makes them seem so.  Shifra said something similar in that she didn't think the romance was at all plausible - they seemed to fall in love out of nowhere, with no build up and no warning - this indeed would be a scathing indictment of any chic lit or other book with pretensions to romance (this one certainly isn't a chic lit in the traditional sense, since it comes about 30 years too early for that, but I think that's the spirit of it). 

Anyway, so after all those criticisms, I went in with a jaundiced eye and a bloodhound scent toward catching that supposedly missing buildup.  So here's what I found.  The angst is definitely there - well maybe it's not quite angst though... Actually angst is altogether the wrong word here.  (I mean there's a teeny bit - a *really* teeny bit of angst when Oliver (main guy) finds out that Caroline (main girl) is engaged but it's kind of not there at all and also when he finds out she's sick but it's all so understated it doesn't really rate).  What I should have said is that Caroline exhibits a touching vulnerability in her lack of appetite, fragile appearance, and general inability to take care of herself.  I think I found this more attractive when I was younger - I mean, I don't mind it now, but I don't think it particularly adds to the romance (signs I am growing up, oh my goodness :))

As for the romance developing itself, there's actually plenty there from Caroline's point of view.  She had a bad experience and so decided to forgo romance for security and got engaged to her stepmother's brother.  When she met Oliver, she realized she could have security AND romance - so nothing implausible or rushed about that, I'd fall for him too ;)  But what about Oliver's side? I mean there's definitely the contrast with Liz to make him realize how much he values Caroline's gentleness and sweet character, but the truth is from everything I can see, he really falls for her because he takes such care of her.  And I must say, what kind of romance is that? Simply *not* one - or very little of one in any case.  So that's kind of disappointing... but the truth is, all that is only realized upon a pretty analytical reading - I mean if you just read it the way I usually do, which is with the expectation that this is a pretty little romance, then sure, it comes out as a little rushed and kind of missing a few crucial plot developments, but it's definitely a romance.  And, as the characters are still likeable, there's *no* tension whatsoever, and the writing is much above the general run of chic lits (again, not a chic lit here) it's a good one.  One I will be reading yet again in the future, I'm sure :)

Verdict: 4/5
Food: oldie but goodie that's maybe not quite as good as it used to be... cinnamon toast crunch - I LOVE it, but I don't think it's one of my absolute favorite cereals anymore (that would be golden grahams, toasted oatmeal flakes, honey bunches of oats if you're wondering :))

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