The Thorn and the Blossom by Theodora Goss
Author: Theodora Goss
Genre: Fiction (Contemporary / Academics / Romance / Medieval Literature)
Publisher/Publication Date: Quirk Books (1/17/2012)
Source: The publisher
Rating: Loved -- I was immediately taken with the book and the story within!
Did I finish?: Yes, in a snap!
One-sentence summary: The story of two lovers, told from the view point of each lover.
Do I like the cover?: Love it -- both the box cover and the covers for each story.
I'm reminded of...: Nick Bantock, Holly Phillips, Catherynne M. Valente
First line: Brendan saw her before she saw him, a girl about his own age, wearing a gray cardigan, faded jeans, and sneakers. from 'Brendan's Story'
Do... I love everything about the physical design of this book?: YES. This is the kind of book you'd see in a totally awesome dreamy historical or fantasy movie, where everyone wears the clothes I wish I could wear, and finds awesome artifacts I wish existed in my life. It's nice to have my dreams come true now and then!
Did... I find myself singing 'The Holly and the Ivy' in my head every time I thought of the title?: YES. I can't help it: it's one of my favorite winter holiday carols. In my defense (?), I kept changing the words, awkwardly, to 'the thorn and the blossom', etc.
Do... I think everyone should enter the giveaway at Theodora Goss' website?: YES. The prize is awesome: a signed copy of The Thorn and the Blossom and In the Forest of Forgetting.
Buy, Borrow, or Avoid?: Buy or borrow (I'm not sure how a copy would fare at the library -- it has to be held carefully), so maybe splurge for the tactile, medieval romantic-lovin', book artifact yearner in your life (or, you know, yourself).
Why did I get this book?: In 2006 I read Goss' In the Forest of Forgetting and loved it; I even wrote her a fangirl letter (my first to an author, I think!). Since then, she's been on my radar as an author I'll read no matter what.
Review: I can't review this book without first commenting on the physical design. Accordion-style, printed on both sides, the book doesn't have a spine. That forces you to hold the book carefully, almost cradling it, which (for me) enhanced the sort of magical-artifact-found-in-my-grandmother's-attic artifact nature that I ate up. I suppose others will find it gimmick-y, but I was immediately charmed.
The book tells the same story from two different viewpoints, that of Evelyn, an American medievalist who spends a week in Cornwall before returning to the States to pursue, she hopes, her academic career; and Brendan, a British medievalist who meets Evelyn during her week in Cornwall.
This is a romance with academics, sort of A.S. Byatt-lite (in a good way!): Oxford scholars turned medieval professors, a kiss, a misunderstanding, some magic...Their brief romance echoes that of a local myth -- a variation on Sir Gawaine and the Green Knight -- and has a mix of realism and mythic grandness that I found compelling. Goss' writing style is simple, but pretty, and she slightly alters her narrative style to fit the voice of Evelyn and Brendan. I read Evelyn's story first, and let out a serious sigh upon finishing, then quickly flipped the book to gobble up Brendan's story. (Who, by the way, needs to be my boyfriend. Hello, Mr. Dreamy.)
In conclusion: read Theodora Goss no matter what; and if you can get your hands on this book, do it, because it's very neat.