My rating: 5 of 5 stars
What a strangely compelling story – or is it a series of interwoven stories?
It was not written in a style I would expect for a look into the hearts and souls of people living their lives, falling in love, and going through tragedies, because it was so detached. I never once felt I was there. Instead, I was an on-looker, like a bird flitting from flower to flower. And somehow, this made it even more real.
Vincenzi takes me to each ‘flower’ and gives me a glimpse of their lives right there and then. Sometimes a major drama is unfolding, other times I’ve only just missed it and experience the aftermath instead, before she takes me to the next character.
She also makes a game out of each chapter opening – who are we dealing with now? Try and guess by the events or the setting because they’re the only clues you’re going to get. One whole (very short) chapter never named a soul (and it was the most moving chapter of all). Usually I’d complain about being pulled out of the story to figure things out, but this time that whole flitting flower to flower thing meant I was never there in the first place. It honestly made this a mildly voyeuristic experience.
But while Vincenzi’s characters felt like fond memories of old acquaintances, giving me that ‘I wonder what they’re doing now’ sensation, they were also real. I loved Tom. Then I hated him. Then I forgave him, laughed at him, and decided he just wasn’t the nicest flower in the bush. I was glad I can walk away from him. And it was all because he was more human than character. He wasn’t all good, he wasn’t all bad. He held stupid ideals to his heart and stood on useless principles. He meant well.
I should also lay acclaim at the feet of the historic side of this story – especially the medical aspect. Sometimes that history was its own drawcard: I mean, really – did doctors actually used to put a cervical stitch in place for placenta praevia?! (Oh. Wait a minute. I just looked that up. We actually still do that. See what I mean? The things you can learn by reading fiction.)
The most moving part for me, the flower that made the entire flight of fantasy so rich and rewarding, was the children. I don’t do spoilers, and there are a lot of children in this story, but you’ll know which ones I mean when you read it. Right near the end, their very last mention. That undid me and I cried as though a whole Hollywood orchestra told me to.
This is well worth the read, and I’m glad I savoured it, took my time with it, and made the joy last a whole 10 days.
I received a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.