Quirk Books, 2012
This is a book unlike any I've read before: it's literally a two-sided story. Pick it up, think it's like any normal book. Then you realize: it's accordion-folded. Read through one perspective, then turn the book over, and start reading again - from the other perspective. If it sounds a little odd, don't worry: once you have it in your hand, it makes a lot more sense. And you will probably be a little in awe, if you are anything like me.
So much for the book format, but what about the story? Well it's pretty much as amazing as the format. Have you ever read a book, told from one character's perspective, and wondered what the other was thinking? Especially when it's a love story? Theodora has given us a chance to see the same story play out from two wholly different points of view: Evelyn's and Brendan's. I read Evelyn's story first, and found myself emotionally invested fairy quickly - I devoured her story. When it ended, I almost got really sad: it was over! And then I remembered I still needed to flip the book and read Brendan's side of things. Happiness! And wow - what an experience.
I loved seeing the way Brendan reacted to the scenes and situations that I'd read about already with Evelyn. I also really loved finding out the 'background info' - what had been going on during the gaps in Evelyn's knowledge. And the ending? Oh. My. Word. Of course, then I found myself wondering: What if I had read Brendan's story first instead of Evelyn's? How would the experience have been different - how would my reactions have changed? Since I can't go back and reread it all fresh, I'm going to have to wait and see if someone else reads it that way - and then we'll talk. Deal?
Another thing I want to note real fast about the novel overall, before I move on to the Q&A with Theodora, and that is the element of the Green Knight legend. I'm a huge fan of medieval literature - I took several classes in college, and I simply enjoy the language and imagery. Evelyn and Brendan are medievalists, with an overlapping specialty: the Green Knight. It's part of what brings them together, it's part of what tears them apart, it's part of what makes their world continue. And the story is fascinating. Definitely a great addition to an already engrossing story.
Book provided by publisher for review.
Have I caught your interest? I hope so! And to further sharpen your curiosity, here's a quick Q&A I got to do with Theodora ...
We get to see how Evelyn and Brendan discover the story of the Green Knight - how did you discover it? What is your "Green Knight story"?
I found the manuscript, in the original medieval Cornish, in Harvard's Houghton Library, and then I had to translate it . . . No, sorry, I'm just kidding! There's no Tale of the Green Knight, but I love it when anyone thinks there is. That means I've done my job as a writer. There is a real poem, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, that dates from around the 14th century. I studied it when I was doing my undergraduate degree in English. And there really is a figure called the Green Man, who is represented in medieval art, often on churches. What I did was extrapolate, from that poem and the green man figure, that there was a widespread green man legend in medieval Europe, and I created an imaginary Cornish poem that linked Sir Gawain (Gawan in my story) with the green man, and with a magical woman who was his counterpart. In the real poem, Sir Gawain is actually not the Green Knight, but in my version he is. So when you see translations in the story, they're all translations of a poem that doesn't exist. Maybe I should write "The Tale of the Green Knight," the actual story of Gawan and Elowen! But right now, it's all in my head.
Was it difficult writing the same story from two perspectives?
Yes! I always had to check one against the other. I had to make sure that the two versions were consistent. Also, I wrote Evelyn's story first, and then when I wrote Brendan's, some things happened that made me change Evelyn's. So, for example, Brendan found the letter in his version, and then I had to go back and write a letter into Evelyn's version! You always have to do things like that when you're writing, because things happen later and then you have to change earlier parts of the story. But I've never had such a complicated time with it before. And then, in the editing process just before publication, things were changed, as they often are -- and I noticed some discrepancies, so there we were, making sure all the discrepancies were fixed. Honestly, I hope the story reads as though it all came out easily and instinctively, because that's how stories should read. But a lot of work went into it! (It's sort of like dancing. It should look effortless, but if you've ever taken a dance class, you know it isn't.)
Which was more fun to write: Evelyn's story or Brendan's?
That's a tough question. They were both so much fun to write. Brendan's was easier to write, I think partly because I wrote it second, but mostly because he just is an easier character. He's a good guy who's faced with some really tough choices, and he handles them as best he can. You can really root for Brendan. Evelyn was harder, because she's a different kind of character. A reviewer complained that she was more passive, and I think that's right, she is -- but you know, she's a lot more hurt, a lot more damaged by life. I think that does make people more passive. My editor and I went back and forth on whether she was sympathetic enough -- I argued that I wanted her to be, not necessarily sympathetic, but real. She does some really stupid things -- they both do. But seriously, don't we all do stupid things in relationships? Especially in relationships? If we didn't, a huge chunk of the Western literary tradition wouldn't exist! But the book itself was so much fun to write. All along, it was as though Evelyn and Brendan were telling me their stories. I just hope readers have fun reading it -- I certainly had fun writing it!
Thanks so much, Theodora, for taking the time to answer my questions!
Remember that hint about a giveaway? The awesome people at Quirk Books have graciously offered two copies of The Thorn and the Blossom plus bookmarks! US & Canada only though, sorry any international readers! Fill out the snazzy Rafflecopter form below, and let me know if you have any problems. Good luck!
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Hi, Great review, interview and giveaway! No, I have never read a book like that before! It sounds fascinating! I would love to read it!ReplyDelete
I've never read this kind of book.ReplyDelete
This book sounds so cool.ReplyDelete