Beth's Reviews > The Morning Gift

The Morning Gift by Eva Ibbotson
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Recommended to Beth by: Amy

After reading the above blurb about the book, I was excited to dive in. Oh yes, this seemed to fit neatly into my preferred genre! I couldn’t tell if it was going to be more romance-ish or historical-fiction-y, but I figured either way I was set.

Imagine my surprise, then, when I really found myself struggling to get into this book. Eva Ibbotson’s writing style is flowy — I picked out one sentence that were so long, being packed with five or six wordy dependent clauses, that it literally was its own paragraph. The characters were well-educated and the author must be, too, alluding to all kinds of musical composers and pieces of art and obscure species of marine life and archeological finds of the early twentieth century — I was drowning in the sea of academia, especially in the beginning as I tried to sort out fictional characters from real persons who I’d never heard of.

And the fictional characters — my, there were a lot of ‘em! There’s Ruth and Quin, obviously: the main characters. Then there’s Ruth’s parents. There’s Ruth’s fiance, Heini (his name proves to be pretty accurate, as he really can be a you-know-what). There’s Hilda, and a guy names Ziller, and a girl named Fraulein Something-or-Other, and a Miss Maud, and Miss Somebody Else, and Mrs. Weiss, and a guy named Levy, and Ruth’s uncle Mishak (and his dead wife Marianne). There’s Ruth’s friends she meets at school: Sam (who has a crush on Ruth), Huw (the Welshman), Pilly (who Ruth tutors), Janet (who’s seen the backseat of a motorcar a time or two); and Kurt (or was it Kent?) the grocer’s son; and Ruth’s arch-nemesis Verena (oh, and Verena’s mom). There’s Quin’s great aunt Frances and the maid Elsie who is a hundred years old and the Basher, Quin’s grandfather (great-grandfather?). There’s a couple of other professors: Roger Something? And a female professor? And a bunch of others mentioned only a few times in the story.

And each character really is a fleshed-out character. The prologue is filled with Ruth’s family history, the how-we-met story of her parents. The book shifts points-of-view from Ruth to Quin to any one of these secondary characters.

No wonder I felt like I was drowning until, like, page eighty. (Never mind that it’s shelved as “Young Adult.” I guess it’s only shelved as such because there’s not any steamy, R-rated detail; not because the average teenager will actually catch all this stuff.)

It took awhile, but then, finally, I started warming up to Ibbotson’s writing style. In fact, by about page 200, I realized something unexpected: I loved her writing. Somehow she had a way of conveying feeling in her sentence structure, and not the words themselves. Her detail painted beautiful, intricate scenes. Simply amazing.

And those secondary characters that were so cumbersome at the beginning — I actually enjoyed them, too. I loved the story about Mishak and Marianne, loved Great-Aunt Frances (and her reaction to Mishak’s story), loved Pilly (a true and loyal friend). Loved Verena in a love-to-hate-her sort of way; loved-to-hate Heini even more.

The storyline itself was a little too predictable, I thought (at least, I was a step ahead of the characters for the most part) and a little too cheesy at the end (these silly romance novel characters never bother to actually *talk* to each other for fifty-some pages, creating all kinds of “drama,” and then they talk to each other and they *love* each other again). But since the silliness of the story was cloaked in such fabulous writing and charming secondary characters I can’t say I minded too much.

I’d probably benefit from a re-read of this book — there’s so much detail I would actually understand the second time around. However, I think I’d rather just read something else by the same author — now that I have a better idea of what to expect.
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Reading Progress

February 23, 2009 – Shelved
Started Reading
March 8, 2009 – Finished Reading

Comments Showing 1-2 of 2 (2 new)

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Aubrey I thought the same thing. I had a hard time getting into the story. If about 100 pages were cut out of the middle, I think I'd have enjoyed it more. I had a hard time with her writing style--very "wordy".

Laura i love that there are so many characters! it makes it more realistic but in life we don't just have 4 or 5 characters: we have all of the people that help make up our life! i agree that all of the information can be overwhelming but that is why i love ibbotson's books; because they acknowledge the beauty in the world!

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