Thursday, May 3, 2012

Jennifer Donnelly, THE TEA ROSE

Having read her YA novels, I was expecting something similar--intense and tightly woven as cloth. This adult novel is an enjoyable read--but it's a big, baggy epic/immigration novel/mystery/melodrama/bodice-ripper. The plot moves forward mostly through a series of near-misses and mis-understandings: the day the heroine (Fiona, a plucky English girl from Whitechapel area) gets a job and doesn't go to see her lover Joe in the city is the same time as the one party a year thrown by his boss's family--where Joe drinks and weakly succumbs to another girl's advances--and when she gets pregnant he has to marry her. Miserable beyond belief (and having had 4 of her family members die within weeks of each other in one horrible way after another, including a murder by Jack the Ripper) Fiona takes her younger brother and leaves England for America and marries a man she meets on the dock ... but if Joe had turned up in NYC a day earlier, he'd have caught her before she did! Coincidences notwithstanding, the Victorian atmosphere is marvelous and seedy ... and I love Jennifer Donnelly and would pretty much read a phone book if she wrote it.

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