I think I was in eighth grade when I read this book, and I loved it. I remember I spent a lot of time imagining myself as a girl Merlin--so The CrystaI think I was in eighth grade when I read this book, and I loved it. I remember I spent a lot of time imagining myself as a girl Merlin--so The Crystal Cave is probably one of the reasons why I write the kinds of things I do!...more
A moving, beautifully written story with a protagonist you quickly come to care deeply about. Lady Elspeth Douglas is in France when World War I breakA moving, beautifully written story with a protagonist you quickly come to care deeply about. Lady Elspeth Douglas is in France when World War I breaks out, and in the course of making her way back to England, the suffering she sees among the first soldiers returning from the front impels her to join Queen Alexandra's Imperial Military Nursing Service. Knowing her guardian would believe that this service is beneath a woman of her class, she signs up without getting his permission or revealing her rank to anyone. It turns out that she has a true gift and passion for nursing; she takes pride in her work and in serving her country and feels, for the first time in her life, that she is truly doing something worthwhile. Her newfound sense of purpose and of herself is threatened, however, when word gets back to her guardian about her nursing career. To complicate matters, her French fiance has been wounded and captured by the Germans, and even as she has anxiously awaited news of him, she has, despite all her efforts, become increasingly attached to one of her patients, a Scottish captain who was a childhood friend and would like now to be much, much more. ...more
When I started this book, I didn't have much time in my schedule for recreational reading, but the deeper I got into the story, the more time I made!When I started this book, I didn't have much time in my schedule for recreational reading, but the deeper I got into the story, the more time I made! I really enjoyed this tale of intrigue, mystery, and romance in Paris and Egypt during the period of Napoleon's Elba exile. Hattie Blackhouse, "Monsieur Berry," and Hattie's unflappable companion, Bing, are characters I would gladly spend more time with.
Full disclosure: I received this book for free through the Good Reads First-Read program....more
This novel is beautifully written from multiple viewpoints--not all of them (perhaps none of them) reliable. The characters are all riveting, althoughThis novel is beautifully written from multiple viewpoints--not all of them (perhaps none of them) reliable. The characters are all riveting, although my least favorite is the sexist and self-important expat writer Lionel Maine, whose portions of the book I was often tempted to skip over--but I was pulled in in spite of myself. It is odd, though, that I had less sympathy for Lionel than for Lou Villars, who ends up working as an interrogator for the Gestapo in occupied Paris (this is not a spoiler, since we learn this in the author's forward, before the novel itself even gets under way; indeed, the novel's various narrators are constantly giving spoilers about how the plot will unfold). These feelings, I think, are testament to the skill of author Francine Prose, who has built this book around Lou, a cross-dressing lesbian auto racer whose greatest desire is to be the Joan of Arc of her time. Lou is not a hero, and she's not even really the novel's protagonist, in the traditional sense--but she is the nexus that, along with the titular Chameleon Club, connects all the other characters:
Gabor Tsenyi: genius Hungarian photographer, whose narrative comes to us mainly in the form of detailed and loving letters written home from Paris to his parents
Suzanne: language teacher, model, and resistant; first Lionel's girlfriend, then Gabor's
Baroness Lily de Rossignol: patron of the arts with a complicated but loving marriage; like Suzanne, she becomes a member of the French Resistance. (She and Gabor are my favorite characters.)
Yvonne: Hungarian expat owner of the Chameleon Club
Nathalie: provincial schoolteacher writing a biography of Lou
These are the main characters, and they all feel intensely real. I'm still thinking about them days after finishing the book, and I keep wanting to find Gabor's photos online or in a book or museum; I want to read the baroness's memoir, and I find myself wishing that Suzanne hadn't ordered her memoir destroyed after her death. When characters take on this kind of reality, when I come to care so much about them and their story, I know that I have read a great book!
Disclosure notice: I won an ARC of this novel from Goodreads. I'm glad I did, because otherwise I would have thought the book looked interesting and like something I might read "someday"--and if I'd never gotten around to reading it, I would have missed out on a truly absorbing novel that has given me much to think about....more
This book is one I copyedited early on in my freelance career. That I still have vivid memories of its story and characters twenty years later shows wThis book is one I copyedited early on in my freelance career. That I still have vivid memories of its story and characters twenty years later shows what a standout it was. Highly recommended!...more