Wednesday, January 18, 2012

The Thorn and the Blossom by Theodora Goss

Title: The Thorn and the Blossom: A Two-Sided Love Story
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.


  1. Yours is the second positive review I've read for this book. It's sounds lovely that I'm definitely going to have to check it out for myself.

  2. I am seeing this book everywhere and I am intrigued. Well it goes up and down

  3. I've also seen other positive reviews and am intrigued. Need to check it out. Thanks!

  4. Sounds amazing - thanks for such a detailed description of the packaging. Looking forward to this book more than most!

  5. What a gorgeous book. I'm definitely intrigued!

  6. This looks like such a neat book, and I am more than a little intrigued by the design and the way the story is told. This is one that is going on my list, and I am so glad that you loved it! I think I will too.

  7. @All -- definitely, definitely get your hands on this book -- gorgeous and delightful!

  8. I really....really really like the cover of this.

  9. I read about this over at Things Mean A Lot and it immediately piqued my interest. It's such a wonderful premise, and I love the ingenious way Goss decided to present her story. After all, aren't all love stories two-sided? I really hope I can get my hands on a copy of this one!

  10. This one sounds absolutely fantastic. I'll have to try to track down a copy!

  11. I loved In the Forest of Forgetting! Goss has such unusual and haunting stories.

  12. I keep seeing reviews of this, and it sounds amazing! And you are correct ..... I don't think it would hold up well in a public library. I had already thought about ordering it for mine, and realized that it would probably get damaged pretty quickly.

    So, might just treat myself to a personal copy, instead. :)

  13. Oh wow how interesting!! I haven't heard of this but I'm totally intrigued by the accordion thing!

  14. The design and story of this book sounds great, and I'm trying to picture the accordion thing as well.

  15. I'm really curious about this one. Sounds like it's packaged beautifully and would make a great gift. Glad you loved it!

  16. Ive seen up and down reviews on this one but I really want to get my hands on a copy. Lol. Even if only for that gorgeous cover. Glad you loved it!