Friday, February 11, 2011

To Be Glad and Young

Queens of All the Earth

Written by: Hannah Sternberg

Released: June 15, 2011 by Bancroft Press

Summary: As her freshman classmates move into dorms at Cornell University, Olivia Somerset suffers a nervous breakdown. When months of coaxing and analyzing fail to rouse Olivia from her stupor, big sister Miranda decides the sisters should fly off to Barcelona for some "vacation therapy."

When a mistake at their Barcelona hostel leaves the Somersets in a large co-ed dorm room, Olivia and Miranda are saved by kindly Mr. Brown and his son Greg, who happily volunteer to surrender their private room. But while Olivia feels an instant connection with brooding Greg Brown, Miranda sides with fellow guest and cocky American travel writer Lenny:

The Browns are just plain weird, and must be avoided at all costs.

In the midst of urbane Peruvian priests-in-training and Scottish soccer fans, from the shops of La Rambla to the waters of the Mediterranean to the soaring heights of Montjuic, Miranda works to protect her still-fragile sister while Olivia struggles to understand her burgeoning adulthood, her feelings for Greg, and the fear that makes the next step in her life so impossible to take.

Inspired by E. M. Forster's classic novel A Room with a View, debut author Hannah Sternberg's Queens of All the Earth is a poetic journey of young love and self-awakening set against the beauty of Catalonia. Teenagers and adults alike will be riveted and moved by this coming-of-age novel about the conflicting hearts and minds of two very different sisters.

I know that this isn’t being published until the summer, but I really don’t want to wait to write my review because – knowing me like I do – I will forget all about it and thus never get around to writing it, let alone publishing it. However, that probably wouldn’t be such a travesty.

Maybe it’s just me, but I could not get into the narrative of this book. It also wasn’t anything like I thought it would be, so that could have something to do with it. Don’t get me wrong, I really appreciate the opportunity to be able to read this, months before publication thanks to netGalley and Bancroft Press, but I didn’t like this book.

I empathized with Olivia and I could see where she was struggling against herself, in that way she was beautifully written, but I couldn’t get behind most of the other characters especially the annoying Lenny and sister Miranda. But Olivia I just wanted to see everything work out for and for her to center herself enough in order to move forward.

At times I thought that this was a little difficult to follow. For the most part, Olivia is the main focus and the third person perspective is centered on her. But then there were times where it would shift focus to Miranda (as it originally was at the very beginning) and it happened with such suddenness that I was taken aback and left thinking that I was reading about Olivia for a sentence or two. And the sisterly relationship that the two shared felt forced and unnatural when they were together. I thought that it would be a more important factor of the novel, but it was as if it was a last minute decision to have them sisters and not merely strangers or second cousins.

There is almost zero romance with this book when I was hoping for there to be more. The summary made it out as if there was going to be this great vacation romance between Greg and Olivia but aside from a pretty kiss and purposeful avoidance, there was nadda. Hell, there was more between Marc the Priest-in-training and Miranda than anyone else.

I thought that this novel held great promise and taking into account that it wasn’t a final copy that I read and that it’s a debut for this author, it wasn’t that bad. But if you’re looking for a novel where something happens, this isn’t for you. In fact, it seemed as though everything that would have been what it was working towards happened outside of the pages right before the pseudo-epilogue. I would have liked to read more about Olivia and how she fared in her freshman year at Cornell, how it was to return home after being in Spain, and how she completely overcame her nervous breakdown (if she even did completely).

In the end, I’m going to have to give this novel a 3.5/10; while I’m happy that I was able to read it, I’m more happy that I didn’t spend any money on it. It just wasn’t my cup of tea. But, if you can, read it yourself and make your own conclusion. Who knows, it could be your next favourite book.

**This is the cover on the author's website, but I'm not positive that it's the final one. Still, isn't it pretty? I love the colours.

No comments: