Title – The Art of Devotion
Author – Samantha Bruce-Benjamin
Publisher - Gallery
Date Published - 2010
# of pages - 378
Genres & Themes: Contemporary fiction, period (1940s and earlier), family drama
GoodReads – 53 Ratings, 3.81 Average Rating
Amazon.com – 17 Ratings, 4.0ish Average Rating
In the tradition of bestselling authors Ian McEwan and Anne Enright, Samantha Bruce-Benjamin’s brilliant and timeless debut unveils the dark side of human nature as four women share the poignant tale of love, obsession, and ultimate betrayal that binds them forever.
Have we all not wished to keep forever the one person we love the most?
The secluded beaches of a sun-drenched Mediterranean island are the perfect playground for young Sebastian and Adora. Emotionally adrift from their mother, Adora shelters her sensitive older brother from the cruelties of the world. Sophie does not question her children’s intense need for one another until it’s too late. Her beloved son’s affections belong to Adora, and when he drowns in the sea, she has no one else to blame.
Still heartbroken years later, Adora fills her emptiness with Genevieve, the precocious young daughter of her husband’s business associate and his jealous wife, Miranda. Thrilled to be invited into the beautiful and enigmatic Adora’s world, the child idolizes her during their summers together. Yet, as the years progress, Genevieve begins to suspect their charmed existence is nothing more than a carefully crafted illusion. Soon, she too is ensnared in a web of lies.
Stunningly told in the tragic voices of four women whose lives are fatefully entangled, The Art of Devotion is evocative and haunting, a story of deceit, jealousy, and the heartbreaking reality of love’s true power. -- Product description from Amazon.com
* Paperback copy has deckle edge
What I thought:
Where do I start with this book? The writing is beautiful and it has a very distinct voice. The story is told from the perspective of four very different women during the summers of the 1920s to 1940’s. We know that some sort of tragedy occurred during this time period but we aren’t given the whole picture. In this way we are taken on a journey that allows these four women to come to terms with what has happened and the roles they played. Here is what makes the writing voice so distinct. The story really isn’t told as if it is a series of events that start at point A and end at point B. Instead it’s very psychological in nature. Basically, imagine a story where the events in a person’s life are told exactly as they are thought about. Imagine a story where when you question “what is that person thinking?” or “what’s that person’s side of the story?” or “does he/she ever think about that time?” we get to see exactly that. As said, the writing was beautiful, but this wasn’t just for the lyrical quality of it but the glimpse of raw emotional and psychological peril we are thrown into. The story was captivating and the characters are ones you will love to hate when you get to the core of it.
The problem I have with this book is – who do I recommend it to? I have a very hard time coming up with an answer to this question. I know that I thought the book was great, but will others? The story can be very repetitive at times both within the same person’s perspective and crossing into all four of them. The characters were very hard to get a hold of in terms of who’s who at the beginning of the story (thanks to the writer for including a character list at the beginning of the book!). The writer also does something that I know a lot of readers are not fond of – telling instead of showing. Don’t get me wrong, I want to recommend this book. I want to hand over my copy to family and friends so they can read it too. But I can’t be too sure that repetition and ‘telling’ won’t be bothersome to them.
If you like experimental writing styles, lyrical qualities, and family stories with mysteries to them you may like this book. But just beware of the potential that this book may not be an easy read.
Disclaimer: I received a free copy from the writer in order to participate in a September book discussion over at The Next Best Book Club (Goodreads group)
Recommended to: Adult women, contemporary fiction lovers, those who like an element of mystery in a story
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