Splendour Falls - Susanna Kearsley A very lyrical story, this novel is slow and introspective. On occasion, the narration rambles aimlessly among medieval streets and their denizens or stops altogether to contemplate a mystical treasure or a human folly. Personally, I prefer more action and less woolgathering, but in case of this novel, the author took the only possible approach. She invested most of her skills in her characters.
They’re alive and diverse, a fascinating bunch, each one with his or her distinct personality, although none of them appeared substantive to me. Like the novel’s situational landscape, the characters are dreamlike. I’ve never met such people in real life. They’re all a bit too literary, indigenous to the fictional world the author had created, but not the world I live in. Maybe I live in the wrong world? Or maybe the protagonist’s worldview is decidedly different from mine.
The plot of this novel seemed unnecessary, almost accidental. Emily, the protagonist, is a young British woman, on vacation in France. The entire story revolves around her leisurely stay in an old hotel and her wandering around the small tourist town of Chinon. There is a mystery there too and a couple of murders as well, but those lines didn’t seem organic to the story. The integrity of the novel would’ve been served better without them.
On the other hand, the historical vignettes grafted into the modern day tale feel natural. They enrich the story and deepen its emotional impact, and so do the numerous poetic descriptions of people and locations.
The only description that is lacking is that of the protagonist. Unlike most of the secondary characters, who are portrayed in detail: clothes and eye color, mannerisms and professions, Emily is an enigma. I don’t know how she looks or what she does for a living. I don’t know her back story either, and my lack of knowledge hampers my understanding of her inner conflicts. Sometimes, Emily’s dilemmas feel as obscure and incomprehensible as the problems of another, minor character – a French queen who died 700 years ago.
Despite this little quirk, the writer’s language is beautiful, inviting the reader to relax and enjoy the muted, pastel flow of her story. And I did enjoy this novel, although I won’t ever re-read it.