No two persons ever read the same book. --Edmund Wilson

Monday, August 22, 2005

#75: A Princess of Roumania -- Paul Park

Ever get the feeling that different reviewers are reading different books with the same title?

I've just read this novel for review: I'll be reading it again before I write the piece, and what appears here will be more in the way of notes and observations. But I've flicked through the first ten Google results for the novel, and found that the heroine and her friends travel into a book (not really); that they travel to an alternate 18th-century Romania (no); that Miranda, the heroine, 'never really comes to life' (I don't think the Romantic Times Book Club got this novel); that it's all the work of Miranda's aunt Aegypt, Egypt, Aegyptia (third variant is right); that Peter is the son of a great hero (no), that the Baroness is 'fiendish' ...

Actually, that last observation is likely to be a pivotal point of my review: that although the Baroness Ceausescu (name quite deliberately used) is painted as Villain all over the blurb, she's one of the most likeable and sympathetic characters in the book -- and this, it turns out, is quite intentional. No black and white in here (except the stark wintry landscapes of uncolonised North America, Bucharest on the eve of invasion, etc) but a moral landscape in shades of grey that shift as they're examined.

Worst thing about this novel: drawing closer to the end, feeling the thinness of the remaining pages, and wondering how the author's going to pull it all together. Only by searching online did I discover that this is the first of a series ...

Park's prose is clear and cool, peppered with odd similes ('dead as kittens') and marvellous metaphors, and the book's complex and demanding: not for children, despite the coming-of-age themes. As someone said of Gene Wolfe recently, Park 'demands your attention and repays it'.

reposted here from LJ in order to keep all my reviews in one place

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