Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Lisa's Review: The Winter Rose

When India Selwyn Jones, a young woman from a noble family, graduates from the London School of Medicine for Women in 1900, her professors advise her to set up her practice in London's esteemed Harley Street. Driven and idealistic, India chooses to work in the city's East End instead, serving the desperately poor.

In these grim streets, India meets--and saves the life of--London's most notorious gangster, Sid Malone. A hard, wounded man, Malone is the opposite of India's aristocratic fiancé, Freddie Lytton, a rising star in the House of Commons. Though Malone represents all she despises, India finds herself unwillingly drawn ever closer to him, intrigued by his hidden, mysterious past.

Though they fight hard against their feelings, India and Sid fall in love, and their unpredictable, passionate and bittersweet affair causes destruction they could never have imagined. Sweeping from London to Kenya to the wild, remote coast of California, The Winter Rose is a breathtaking return to the epic historical novel, from a masterful writer with a fresh, richly vivid, and utterly electrifying voice. ~ from the inside flap.

You know that fight you have with yourself when you need to go to sleep, but you just want to read one more chapter or to the end of the page? That was my experience with Jennifer Donnelly's second novel of her "Rose" trilogy.

With a rich and vivid narrative you can almost feel the desperation of the characters as they roamed the streets and alleys of East London, or feel the heat of the African sun or smell the salty sea air from the bluffs of Point Reyes. The details lent to the novel's authenticity and it was a great joy to immerse that time in London's history.

Despite a few cliched archetypes (the modern independent woman with a desire to change the world or the criminal with a heart of gold) the characters are well-formed and take believable journeys throughout the course of the plot. India and Sid make you believe in their convictions, their love and their destiny. The secondary characters all played well and I paticularly enjoyed meeting Fiona and Joe (protagonists from The Tea Rose - first in the trilogy and a book that's officially at the top of my to be read pile). Speaking of brilliant characters, besides possibly Voldemort, I can't remember ever reading a villian as well written and completely beyond redemption as Freddie Lytton. His demise was just not good enough in my humble opinion.

At 700 pages, this is a monster of a book, though that's not my complaint. I felt far too much time was spent setting things up and I would have gladly exchanged some of those chapters for a few more pages with Sid and India in their new life. I won't get too greedy about that though, because if this book is any indication, I'm sure they'll show up again in the next one... which was set up beautifully by the way.

Though a romance at its core, the delightful mix of history, adventure and suspense makes this a genre-busting novel that is simply one great read.

Final Take: 4.5/5


Julie P. February 7, 2008 at 12:55 PM  

I really want to read this. I received a copy of The Tea Rose and enjoyed it. It's just hard finding time to read such a huge book! :)

Marg February 9, 2008 at 4:45 PM  

Great review! I loved this when I read it too, and I am very much looking forward to the next book!

heather (errantdreams) February 12, 2008 at 12:11 PM  

Wow. Sounds like quite the sweeping adventure!

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