Monday, June 23, 2008
The Winter Rose by Jennifer Donnelly
I have been a devoted fan of Jennifer Donnelly since I first read A Northern Light. In addition, I have had the wonderful pleasure of hosting Jennifer at our school.
Having read The Tea Rose, I anxiously awaited the second in the trilogy. I bought a copy while in the UK, but gave it to a friend as present. As the school year winds down, I couldn't put off reading The Winter Rose any longer. It is a long historical saga, but isn't that what we fans love? Reviewers have said that it went on 200 pages longer than necessary, but I disagree. I didn't want it to end.
The Winter Rose continues the story of the Finnegan family, this time with Charlie Finnegan at the center of the action. However, Charlie is now known as Sid Malone and is a seemingly ruthless criminal who controls a band of thugs in London's East End. The novel commences as India Selwyn-Jones graduates from the London School of Medicine for Women and begins work for Dr. Gifford, a quack to be sure. India is passionate about medicine and is resolved to provide the best treatment for the hordes of patients whom she sees. At the same time she is engaged to Freddie Lytton, a hardened ne'er do well, who is interested in her for her money. As is to be expected the paths of Freddie, India, and Sid become entwined and the inevitable triangle is conceived. Fionna Finnegan becomes obsessed with finding Charlie and as a result enters the picture.
From East End of London to Whitechapel to New York, California, and Africa and Mount Kilamanjaro, Donnelly weaves a wonderful adventure and romantic novel. Her descriptions of the times, characters, and setting are meticulously researched. You know what Victorian London looks like and how it smells - the pubs, the tunnels, and the wharves. You can feel the jostling of your teeth as the primitive railroad crosses the African continent. You love India and despise Freddie. At times I felt like Sisyphus pushing the rock up the hill. As close as Sid and India get to having a fulfilling relationship, the rock slides back down and you start over again. The minor characters are also well drawn, especially Ella Moskowitz and her family. They add a sense of place and also serve as catalysts in moving the plot along. Seamie Finnegan reappears and the subplot involving him and Willa Alden with their adventurous spirit and need for exploration seems to foreshadow the plot of the next novel in the trilogy.
The Winter Rose is a wonderful novel, guaranteeing many hours of reading pleasure.