Wednesday, June 13, 2012

The Unruly Passions of Eugenie R.

The Unruly Passions of Eugenie R.
Author Carole Desanti

Love and war converge in this lush, epic story of a young woman’s coming of age during and after France’s Second Empire (1860–1871), an era that was absinthe-soaked, fueled by railway money and prostitution, and transformed by cataclysmic social upheaval.
Eugénie R., born in foie gras country, follows the man she loves to Paris but soon finds herself marooned. An outcast, she charts the treacherous waters of sexual commerce on a journey through artists’ ateliers and pawnshops, zinc bars and luxurious bordellos. Giving birth to a daughter she is forced to abandon, Eugénie spends the next ten years fighting to get her back, falling in love along the way with an artist, a woman, and a revolutionary. Then, as the gates of the city close on the eve of the Siege of Paris, Eugénie comes face to face with her past. Drawn into a net of desire and need, promises and lies, she must make a choice and find her way to a life that she can call her own.
Review: Carole Desanti colors the pages of this drawn out French-period novel with mountains of purple majesty.  The dreaded purple prose, flowery and full of poetic nostalgia, much like Hemingway, works to romanticise the time period, which is muddied by sin and war. The premise of the book has all the makings, but suffocates any tension with gruelingly prolonged descriptions. Instead of building the scene, I felt this approach drained any footing gained by forcing the reader into a poetic, meandering tirade that often went off course.  These jaunts through the floaty prose dulled the plot and consistently made me lose interest. Early on, the dialogue is disjointed and it is difficult to keep track of the speaking characters. The dialogue is the weakest part of the book and I was disappointed by the lack of significance and emotion - especially, given the amount of laborious work that was spent on descriptions.  In the later half of the novel, much attention is directed towards the detailing and history of the war. The reader is taken on a history lesson while intermittently being brought back to the characters and plot. Most likely praise and consideration for this book will be given based on the author's credentials in the publishing world, but perhaps she should stick to the other side of the desk. It's a bit of a snooze-fest, unless you're really into purple pose and beginner-style dialogue, I wouldn't recommend it.  This has been done before and it has been done much better by other authors. 
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* ARC provided by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt courtesy of Amazon Vine


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