The Thorn And The Blossom: A Two-Sided Love Story by Theodora Goss (spoilers)

The Thorn and the Blossom is, first off, a beautiful book.  It comes with a slipcase decorated in a William Morris style illustration.  The book itself, an accordion book, can be opened from either side and contains four illustrations (I believe done on scratchboard) by Scott McKowen.  Theodora Goss has made the most of the format by creating a romantic tale told from the perspectives of two separate characters: Evelyn & Brendan.  Each cover carries one of the lovers’ initials which corresponds with the text you’re about to read:  B for Brendan and E for Evelyn.  It’s all very nicely done.

(Warning! Skip this paragraph if you want to avoid spoilers!) Evelyn & Brendan first meet when Evelyn visits Cornwall on holiday. They have a whirlwind romance, and then separate under tense circumstances.  Years later they find each other again.  Intertwined with their story is a variation of the old Arthurian legend of Gawain & the Green Knight.  The implication being that these two characters are reincarnations of the lovers from the old tale, cursed to be apart for 1000 years.  Theodora Goss touches briefly on several of the directions she could have taken this story – but never really follows through on any of them.  There’s the obvious fantasy path. Or my personal favorite: whether Evelyn’s visions (which she’s been having since she was a small child) are memories of her past life or hallucinations requiring medication.  The Thorn and the Blossom is a short book, and both character’s stories combined clock in at under 100 pages.  So Goss doesn’t have much space to elaborate or develop these ideas.  And therein lies the rub.

Because of the parameters the format forces on the author (Goss was specifically asked to write an accordion book, rather than an existing story being adapted), The Thorn and The Blossom feels oddly incomplete.  As if we’ve been given the armature on which the author intended to build her plot.  Goss implies that this was her intention – to leave blanks for the reader to fill in and create an even greater interactive experience.  While I admire the intent, in execution the plot just felt like it was full of holes.

Despite this, the story is unusual and Goss still manages to take it in unexpected directions. In addition to the psychological implications, I particularly enjoyed how the ending resolves itself only after you’ve read both Brendan’s and Evelyn’s parts.  And as a package it’s wonderful.  Like everything Quirk does The Thorn and The Blossom is innovative and provocative in its possibilities.   I only wish they’d given themselves, and Theodora Goss, a little more space in which to explore those possibilities.

The Thorn and The Blossom is available for pre-order, release date January 17, 2012.

Publisher:  Quirk Books, Philadelphia (2012)
ISBN:  978 1 59474 551 5

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The Review: Book-ish News You May Have Missed

Reading can be a solitary habit and I’m in an interactive kind of mood today.  With that in mind –  here’s a set of links to things that require some giving & receiving.  Enjoy!

    • The Readers Podcast, hosted by the UK litbloggers Savidge Reads and GavReads, is compiling a long list for The International Readers Book Awards 2011.  Due to some technical difficulties with the website they’ve decided to extend the deadline until Tuesday, December 20th.  ANYONE IN THE WORLD can nominate a book (that’s been published in 2011 in hardback or paperback format) and there are multiple categories to choose from.   Including:  Best Character, Best Opening Line, Best First Novel and, of course, Best Book of the Year.  Follow the link to fill out the longlisted nomination form.  And I strongly encourage you to download an episode of The Readers while you’re there (they’re on iTunes as well).
    • Kimbofo of Reading Matters has designated January 2012  Australian Literature Month – complete with a challenge.  The rules are simple:  read an Australian book and celebrate the writers from the land down under (and NO!  New Zealand books do NOT count!  I’m still blushing over that faux pas).  If you blog – not a requirement – Kim has created a set of 5 badges to use in your posts.  Each one features a different Australian native animal.  And, finally, if you’re unsure what to read I recommend visiting Lisa at ANZ Litlovers.  I guarantee she’ll set you on the right track.
    • Closet political junkie?  Levi Asher over at Litkicks has been hosting an ongoing discussion about the Occupy and Tea Party Movements.  Whichever side of the debate you fall on – or if you find yourself performing a balancing act on razor-wire between the two – you’ll be welcomed.  Your opinions (as long as you keep it polite) will be heard.  And let’s be honest. That’s more than most of us got over Thanksgiving dinner with family.
    • Speaking of politics:  it seems that there’s a new Republican front-runner!  Lori at TNBBC is hosting a giveaway of TAFT 2012, a novel by Jason Heller published by Quirk Books.  Follow the link to learn about the book, view the trailer and to enter to win the fantastic prize pack that includes a campaign pin and poster!  (I’m such a geek).  5 winners, U.S. residents only and the opportunity to join a group discussion with the author on GoodReads in January.  All entries need to be in by December 21st.
    • If we’re handing out points for creativity:  Quirk seems to be ahead of the curve in keeping print books relevant in the wake of the e-book revolution.  How do they do it?  By making the physical object as unique and desirable as the text it contains.  Case in point:  their upcoming January release The Thorn And the Blossom:  A Two-Sided Love Story by Theodora Goss.

This novel is beautifully illustrated, comes with a slipcover and without a spine.  It’s what is known as an accordion book.  In Goss’ incarnation each side opens up to the same story told from a different perspective, each perspective containing new revelations.  (A shame this wasn’t out in time for the holiday because it would make the perfect stocking stuffer).  Watch this space for my upcoming review.

    • And last, but not least, check out this tweet from last week:!/BookedinChico/status/147484567438245889

Are you as excited about a new Toni Morrison book as I am???

Please feel free to use the comments to post any contests, challenges, awards and exchanges that you’re hosting, taking part in or just geeking-out on.  ‘Tis the season for sharing!

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