I liked this novel a great deal, although I thought it could be subtantially expanded to improve the depth of character development. The story is effeI liked this novel a great deal, although I thought it could be subtantially expanded to improve the depth of character development. The story is effectively told from the perspective of the young girl who is the central protagonist. Still, I would like to have learned more of her parents and other aspects of the "backstory" that enabled the girl to be so open and unprejudiced in an era with so much racial turmoil. Perhaps that is accounted for merely by the innocence of youth, but that might be more credible today than it would have been more than fifty years ago. Perhaps bringing out something in the father's military career or her mother's sensitive nature might have strengthened the impact of the story.
The above said, the texture of the narrative is evocative and makes for a satisfying read. The girl's relationships with her peers, elders of varying outlooks and backgrounds and especially the living and dead male objects of her concern and attraction across racial lines are delicately brought to life. The Girl Who Swam to Atlantis is a worthy read from an author whose further development you may wish to follow....more
I'm one of those who were a bit disappointed in this novel, particularly after its good New York Times review by Janet Maslin. I though the cultural rI'm one of those who were a bit disappointed in this novel, particularly after its good New York Times review by Janet Maslin. I though the cultural references were rather stale and uninspiring to either nostalgia or insight (e.g. the dwelling on James Bond movies). The treatment of the lead protagonist as an incredible overachiever seemed rather pretentious. In my view, its a decent read that does pick up as you get deeper into it, somewhat diminished by the window it provides on the author's ego....more
But maybe four stars for romantic fantasy buffs; five for those buffs who also haven’t had a hot date for a very long time. The Curse of Nefertiti isBut maybe four stars for romantic fantasy buffs; five for those buffs who also haven’t had a hot date for a very long time. The Curse of Nefertiti is in a women’s genre that I seldom read (being a grizzled male writer described by one critic as “Evelyn Waugh with a claw hammer”). However, I did read the book after seeing positive reviews and the novel’s prologue on the author’s web site. I am rating the novel here in terms of my ill-informed take on makes a novel stand out within the romantic fantasy genre.
Immediately drawing interest in the novel’s prologue is its first person, staccato writing style, a courageous choice when current literary convention is inclined toward third person artfully crafted paragraphs. Ratcliff’s style, heavily reliant on very short sentences and paragraphs, is analogous to musically crisp passages of disconnected parts or sounds. To me, that works effectively in the context of the novel. The tale begins with a dream and leads into a step-by-step illusory awakening (or progressive delusion if the reader prefers) that the narrator is actually the reborn queen of the Nile from centuries before Cleopatra. The style allows Ratcliff to transition seamlessly between alter egos without prelude or warning, also an effective device in this story.
Kayla, the heroine, is guided to her revelation by powerful hormones and a reincarnated Egyptian deity who appears to be largely modeled on Fabio. (It’s women’s fantasy, so guys, get over it.) Under such circumstances, one should not expect her train of thought to be expressed in refined philosophical paragraphs and they are not. In the beginning of the book, she thinks as an intelligent young person in the twenties might think, confronted with the mundane (empty refrigerators and too many cats), problem ridden friends and family, work obligations and confused sexual instincts and relationship issues, all layered over haunting psychological disturbances in dark corners of consciousness. In the middle, while Nefertiti has yet to claim her soul, Aphrodite has obviously claimed her body, bringing yet more disjointed trauma and pleasure. Finally, she transitions into the guilt-ridden Nefertiti, struggling with the consequences of a youthful curse. She copes with all this in short alternating bursts of logic and instinct grounded in the moment. The explicit text is staccato. Underlying that, however, is an implicit ostinato, a repeated rhythmic pattern in the short paragraphs that sustains the atmosphere of the tale.
The plot is rather conventional. As a genre piece, it is properly salacious, particularly in the middle portions. (When a boy, I dog-eared the sexual passages in Peyton Place; but to dog-ear Nefertiti would require an entire kennel.) Gender roles are those time-honored in good literature and bad. (The strong, but vulnerable female is subdued, yet elevated by the potent male; here, a sort of trans-dimensional taming of the shrew.) Speaking for my own gender, I can assure the author that none of us of the male persuasion, even in our prime and at our most magnificent, were ever perfect reincarnated god kings. In fact, the text makes pretty clear that even the Pharaoh (and his alter ego) has a dark side. Kayla doesn’t see that when she is ultimately faced with the dilemma of most romantic novels: is it best to live with only the memory of the perfect love or the reality of the inevitable imperfection of a tangible companion? Without introducing a plot spoiler, Ratcliff manages to dodge the clichéd “Love Story” ending without compromising her heroine to accept a “second best.” Apparently the author hasn’t yet given up on male perfection either. All things in good time.
Good art may use conventional forms. It’s a matter of what you do with it. For a debut novel it was quite a lot. If, as Charline Ratcliff claims, her novels stem from dreams, dreams are uncontrollable and lead in unexpected directions. As her portfolio of dreams increase, I expect we will see a broadening of themes and depth of subject matter within her chosen genre or into the riskier realm of literary fiction. Richard Sharp
This is a very well written thoughtful novel that I limit to four stars partly because the author's own four-star self review indicates to me that sheThis is a very well written thoughtful novel that I limit to four stars partly because the author's own four-star self review indicates to me that she expects to follow this excellent work with something even better, which I will eagerly await. The novel may be considered Southern fiction and shares the theme of troubled protagonists and an atmosphere of melancholy which characterize many Southern novels, but it is far from a genre piece. The protagonists are flawed, but they are not self-destructive, their concerns are realistic and their resolution plausible.
Although ths novel contains frightening scenes and creates an unsettling anticipation of potential disaster, this is ultimately a gentle story. There is more threat than violence and even the most fearful character eventually makes a choice that may easily be seen as a sensible decision benefitting all concerned.
The plot is populated by characters who are isolated, not part of the culture as the main female character, or part of the culture but damaged, as the main male protagonist, so as to not fully partake of it. Their ability to overcome these disabilities through their mutual humanity makes the novel satisfying on both emotional and intellectual levels. ...more
Starts slowly as the story of a sadsack middle management publications exec with an unsatisfactory home life, but picks up as the book progresses. ItStarts slowly as the story of a sadsack middle management publications exec with an unsatisfactory home life, but picks up as the book progresses. It winds up rather nicely as Russell Wiley, the lead protagonist shucks off his frustrations as an unappreciated talent who has lost his ability to give his full energy to the job and decides to take on the role of a "unicorn," adopting the image of a successful executive, delegating the detail work to his staff. He begins dealing with his peers and superiors through adopting a somewhat cynical attitude that he has everything under control, while manipulating personnel decisions to his benefit. This leads to a conclusion that, without revealing plot spoilers, might best be described as a middle management fantasy outcome.
The novel is amusing in a low key manner that captures a good amount of reality of office life in a struggling enterprise and the humor improves as the story progresses. While the main character is not especially sympathetic at the outset, he becomes more so toward the finish. I enjoyed the read....more