Monday, November 14, 2011
The Tea Rose
The Tea Rose is a towering old-fashioned story, imbued with a modern sensibility that is fresh, compelling, and perfectly pitched for these times. This sweeping epic follows young Fiona Finnegan's climb from the teeming streets of East London. Her dreams of leaving her home behind are shattered when her father, a dockworker and union organizer, is killed in an accident. Crushing poverty, the loss of her lifelong love, and the destruction of her family quickly follow. When Fiona discovers that her fathers death was no accident, but a murder engineered by a ruthless tea baron bent on destroying the union, she flees to New York to save her own life. There, the ghosts of her past propel her to the very top of the city's tea trade. A decade later, armed with tremendous wealth, she returns to London to reclaim her lost love and exact a breathtaking revenge.
I've been interested in reading a book by Jennifer Donnelly for a while, because I keep reading great reviews of her novels. I love a good epic historical fiction and this is a time period (and place) I'm fascinated by. I actually own another Jennifer Donnelly novel (Revolution), which I bought at a Borders going-out-of-business sale, but it ended up in my Christmas pile. I'm not feeling very patient right now, I decided to keep myself happy by checking this out from the library.
I think that, overall, I came away satisfied with this book. Barely. I'll talk about the negative first. Hello MELODRAMA! Good grief, but this novel was soap opera-y. All sorts of ups and downs and people sleeping around and people dying, but then coming back from the dead. Amnesia, changes of fortune, manipulative girls getting pregnant to trap boys into marriage...
Getting the picture?
It was just a bit much for me. And the romance-y bits were far too *ahem* detailed.
This is an adult book. I'm hoping that Revolution, being YA, will be less specific.
And it really was a shame because the things I was most looking forward to, the setting and the history, were so well done. The writing was beautiful and the characters fascinatingly complex. There was also quite a bit of mystery, with characters trying to solve the identity of Jack the Ripper, who is - in a word - terrifying. I stayed up too late several nights in a row, knowing I wouldn't be able to sleep until I figured out just a little bit more of the puzzle.
So, to sum up here, The Tea Rose is a beautiful book with lots of interesting elements, but it is rather on the melodramatic side with plenty of adult-level romance. Not quite my thing, but not the worst book I've ever read.