Audra (Unabridged Chick)'s Reviews > Clair de Lune: A Novel

Clair de Lune by Jetta Carleton
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Bittersweet. That's the lingering taste of this book, rich and redolent, and when I finished, I kind of wanted to spend the rest of my Sunday in a Claire de Lune-stupor, rereading the lovely passages and wallowing in the satisfyingly sad/happy mood of the novel.

Hope, optimism, and innocence are themes of this book, along with passion, delight in literature, and the joy of finding kindred souls. Barbara Allen Liles -- called Allen -- becomes a teacher at a junior college in an unnamed town in southwestern Missouri. ("It is an orderly town, bred of the mines, nurtured by agriculture and some manufacture, a blend of Southern gentility and Western enterprise, firmly set in the conservatism of Middle America.", p3) A lonely young woman with aspirations of becoming a poet or novelist in Greenwich Village, Allen finds herself captivated, enamored of, and charmed by two of her students, George and Toby. Surrounded by the shadow of the war in Europe, Allen's constrained life as a teachers seems somewhat bearable with George and Toby in her life.

I really expected a basic love triangle with this story, but Carleton sets up something even more challenging to navigate through: male-female friendship and teacher-student relationships. In an era when women were held up to a different standard than men, Allen's actions are judged without interest or concern in her feelings or motivations. Her colleagues and acquaintances see and expect one thing from Allen, who has the mantle of 'teacher', and with that, some perception of power. It was fascinating, frustrating, and heartbreaking to read -- I so empathize and liked Allen -- and made even more nuanced by the fact that there isn't a clear and handy villain in all this.

I don't know if this is a historical novel; while set in 1941, I don't know when Carleton wrote this novel. It was recently discovered and published by Harper Perennial, and will include their P.S. section with interviews, 'insights', and more.

This is a skinny novel -- just about 300 pages -- and it can read fast or slow, depending on whether you have the patience to linger or (like me) rush through to the giddy, glorious, delicious end. I think fans of WWII novels will enjoy this not-quite-war novel, and anyone who enjoys a good heroine and ambiguous moral situations will find much to chew on in this book.
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Reading Progress

03/09/2012 "I love this cover for some reason. I think it's the gradient coloring..."
03/09/2012 page 1
0.0% "Also, I kind of want to French kiss this prose."
03/09/2012 page 3
1.0% ""The fact of the matter is southwest Missouri, on the edge of the Ozarks. The fact is 1941. And there is a war in Europe. It hangs like haze in the distance, like the threat of violent storm or heat wave. But it may go around, as they say in those parts; it could miss us. It is far away.""

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