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The Tale of Halcyon Crane by Wendy Webb
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's review
May 24, 2010

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bookshelves: audiobook, library_books
Read in May, 2010

A good first effort at fiction, from a writer with a non-fiction background. Webb excels at setting scenes, as though literally painting the story with a watercolor brush ... and I'm not a particularly visual reader. Unfortunately, she let the plot get away from her.

The first half of the book was fairly good, with lots of opportunity for island description, introduction of characters, and setting up of plot lines. At that point, the book gradually, but persistently, proceeds deeper into Cliche Land, especially the romance angle between Hallie and Will, the attorney handling her mother's estate. I was left with the idea that he must be (roughly) the same age as she, though he could've been as much as 10 years older. He has fond memories of playing with her as children, though she was only 5 when she left. So, statements such as "We played tree forts together!" rang a bit hollow: this is something 3 or 4 year old girls do (with 5 - 10 y/o boys)? He seemed a good-looking "prop" for a romance angle, showing little passion or enthusiasm.

Much of the second part consists of Sherherazade-like stories from Iris, her mother's (family's) housekeeper, who appears several times a week, doing a full day's work, including walking to and from the house (two miles from town), and must be over 100 as she freely admits she was the (albeit young) "nanny" to Hallie's grandfather, born around World War I. (Hallie doesn't really question this much, except a "Gosh - she must be old!" moment.) All I'll say of the rather too-neat ending is that at one point Hallie gives the reader a "had I but known what was to follow ....", after which, no one dies, or is seriously injured.

Finally, there's Hallie's ex-husband, appearing un-announced at Hallie's home in Washington state near the beginning of the book. Her good-looking, British, and gay ex-husband. They are still oh-so-close, despite her lack of ... requisite plumbing (he has an offstage partner for that). He disappears until the middle of the book, when after rejecting Will's initial advances, Hallie calls him in London, admitting that she hasn't been with a guy since the divorce, with a "How can I trust a man again, after what happened!" cry of angst. He gives her a Churchill-like pep talk to go on, take a chance at having her heart broken, yadda, yadda, yadda ... and then exits the story for good. These two are oh-so-close and yet haven't resolved their breakup? Were I the editor, I would've insisted Webb either drop him, or have him appear more often (as a hero figure).

I'd read another of Wendy Webb's books, but here's hoping she gets more honest feedback next time!
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