I have to finish packing for my flight to London, which I’ll be taking far too soon. I haven’t even triple-checked my ticket, money, and passport.
What am I doing at the computer?
Writing a book review. I’m a crazy girl.
Yesterday I had a long train journey to and from Dublin for a business meeting (no time to meet people, sorry). Uneventful train journeys = reading time.
So, I finished up Ysabeau Wilce‘s début novel, Flora Segunda. I had the very good fortune to hear Ysabeau read from her novel while I was in New York last month. Not only does she possess an authoritative reading voice, Ysabeau has a striking narrative voice. One that is charming and compelling in equal measures. Her novel is firmly aimed at a young adult audience, but grown-ups who adore tales of derring do, wrapped up in alternative 19th century histories, with girls of spirit, magical mishaps, and talking houses, will enjoy Flora Segunda a great deal.
The story is narrated by Flora Fyrdraaca, a very nearly fourteen year-old girl, who wishes to avoid her family’s military traditions, longs not to have to clean up the ancestral mansion, Crackpot Hall (a magical house that is no longer magical… well, only when it’s being inconvenient), or take care of her father who lost his wits years ago.
This book’s got verve, just like its protagonist. Flora never becomes irritating because she makes mistakes, pays the price, and never gives up. She has an unerring knack for getting into trouble, and Ysabeau is adroit at twisting the action aplenty to leave you worried and anxious for the heroine.
Despite an abundance of plot, spirit butlers, and the occasional pirate, the family dynamics are at the heart of the story. Wilce never deviates from her protagonist’s point-of-view, so what’s lovely is when the reader intuits more from what is depicted, than the narrator herself notices. This is a fine trick. So, we empathise with Flora over her neglectful mother, and yet Ysabeau shows us enough for us to recognise the complex adult problems that are at the root of that neglect, and the pain and frustration it causes mother, as well as daughter. We see that while it might appear cool for a fourteen-year-old girl to be at home on her own for extended periods, with only a batty father, and packs of dogs for company, it’s really an upsetting and difficult experience. Flora deals with it well, and rarely whines, but Ysabeau shows us the pain, loneliness, and heartache through the family interactions.
Several times during the novel Ysabeau indicates that romantic notions are really not that fun when you have to deal with their messiness in reality.
Go out, buy Flora Segunda for a cherished niece (or nephew – there are chases, battles, escapes!), or better still, get it for yourself, curl up with a cup of your favourite beverage, and enjoy the pleasure of a rollicking adventure story.