Tuesday, 23 November 2010

Illyria by Elizabeth Hand

by Elizabeth Hand

Summary: Madeleine and Rogan are first cousins, best friends, twinned souls, each other's first love. Even within their large, disorderly family—all descendants of a famous actress—their intensity and passion for theater sets them apart. It makes them a little dangerous.

When they are cast in their school's production of Twelfth Night, they are forced to face their separate talents and futures, and their future together.

With this book, I think you'll either love it or hate it. For me, I think I’m going to go with loved it.

I adored the relationship between Maddy and Rogan. Don’t get me wrong, it was far from perfect and it wasn’t all mushy romance, there was just something there… this effortless chemistry and bond between the characters that shone through everything else and I love that. The relationship with Rogan and Maddy was what kept me turning the pages to be honest.

The fact that they were cousins and it was technically incest didn’t really register as an issue with me - maybe because they didn’t make it one; they acknowledged that they were cousins and that other people thought it was wrong and they sneaked around to be together like that… but it was never a big topic of conversation, they never really discussed it and trusted their feelings. They just made sense together. But, I am pretty open minded about the whole consensual incest thing, so if you’re not and you’re grossed out by the idea of it then maybe it’ll be more of an issue for you.

Another thing that didn't really register with me much was the time period that it was set in. I think it was set in the 70's and some little things stood out as being outdated but beyond that, I never really noticed it much which was odd.

The story itself was… weird. It was a really unique story, I’ve never read anything like it really but it almost felt like it didn’t have a plot. With most stories there is a clear beginning, middle and end - there’s usually a build up to some climax and with this book, it felt like it was lacking that.

It seemed more about the characters and their relationships than it was about the plot - it was like… reading someone’s life so there were no big plot twists or a dramatic climax or anything to keep you reading. Even the thing’s towards the end of the book didn’t read much like the build up to the end of a story; the whole thing just felt like stuff in the middle.

I don’t think I’m explaining that well - maybe if you read the book (or have already read it) then you’ll understand what I meant. Basically, it’s not one of those books where you’ll be anxiously/excitedly turning the pages to see what happens next; it’s just like you’re reading random moments that stand out in the lives of these strange characters.

Parts of the book seemed so... irrelevant, almost and I'm sure it had its purpose for being there but even by the end I just couldn't see it and it’s odd that there seemed to be so much of that stuff in the book because it was really short. Without the Rogan and Maddy relationship and even some of the oddness of their family, I probably would’ve given up reading the book pretty early on because of the randomness of it.

The writing of the book is good, but again, considering how short the book is, I think Elizabeth Hand went a bit OTT with some of the descriptions of things that we don't even really care about... I would've liked less focus on the scenery and more on the characters and their relationships because that was the strongest part of the book. The toy theatre seemed to be a key thing woven through the story and I didn’t like that at all - it had about one scene where I liked it, the rest of the time whenever I read about it my brain seemed to been stuck on its “WTF?” setting…

While there were things about the book that I wasn’t too sure about and I’m torn between loving them and hating them, the only thing I really hated for sure was the beginning. It just felt like this this big information dump on their family history and a lot of it didn't seem to be even important to the story or it could've been spread out evenly throughout the book. It was a bore getting through that part but it got better.

The end was… I guess you could say it was realistic. But I didn't like that... Although, I didn't entirely hate it either. It just wasn't really satisfying, it was a nice ending - bittersweet depending on how you wanted the book to end - it just gives you the slightest hint of closure but still leaves you wondering what happened next. That’s all I can really say without spoilers.

Like I said in the beginning, you'll probably either love or hate this book and I think I loved it. The characters were so real to me and although for a short book it had a lot of stuff that seemed irrelevant or pointless or totally random, I did enjoy some of it and there was a certain... quirkiness to the story that I liked a lot.

Would I recommend the book? Honestly, I don’t know - I loved it, so on one hand I would but at the same time I think you’ll just have to read the summary and see if it sounds like your kind of thing, if it grabs your interest.


P.s. How gorgeous is this cover?

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