Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Clair de Lune by Jeta Carleton: Some Pre-War Bohemian Buzz or a Fizzle, Pop, Sputter?



Clair de Lune
Author Jetta Carleton
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The time: 1941, at the cusp of America’s entry into World War II. The place: southwest Missouri, on the edge of the Ozark Mountains. A young single woman named Allen Liles has taken a job as a junior college teacher in a small town, although she dreams of living in New York City, of dancing at recitals, of absorbing the bohemian delights of the Village. Then she encounters two young men: George, a lanky, carefree spirit, and Toby, a dark-haired, searching soul with a wary look in his eyes. Soon the three strike up an after-school friendship, bantering and debating over letters, ethics, and philosophy—innocently at first, but soon in giddy flirtation—until Allen and one of the young men push things too far, and the quiet happiness she has struggled so hard to discover is thrown into jeopardy.

Review: Clair de Lune focuses on the innocence of a pre-war generation, both locally, globally and socially. There is a longing for what was, and a dread of what is to come -- the inevitable change. It also dips into the realm of boundaries not just separated by age, but influenced by position, power, gender and career. Although Allen is close in age with her students, she struggles with her new position at the university and the proper student-teacher relationship. What's relevant is how it might play out today. Are her actions scandalous or more harmless given her age? What trumps proper behavior, age or paycheck? 

Where it falls short for me is that given the philosophical struggles and controversial implications, the story does not seize the potential moments to really punch the points. This is more of a going through the daily motions with little resolution or heighten tension. Sure, there are parts where we get a tremor of trouble, but they are not pushed to the limit and held to really create the effect I was hungry for.

Then, the biggest disappointment of all comes at the end. The ending or rather where the story just stops occurs! Did anyone else feel this way? It just ended with a slight shoulder shrug and an oh well, that was kinda fun feeling. I suppose this lends toward the Bohemian effect that the author was trying to instill in the book, along with the attitudes of the characters, but I found it abrupt and unsatisfying. I literally turned the page and said (out loud), "That's it!?"  I don't like putting down a book with the thought that I just wasted my time, but admittedly, the thought crossed my mind after finishing Clair de Lune.  Overall impression: A tepid cup of Earl Gray tea
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*Book provided by Harper Perennial courtesy of NetGalley

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