As I mentioned a few days ago, one of my instructors at the ArmadilloCon workshop was Rosemary Clement-Moore. I had read one of her books already last year and was excited about being in her group. She very kindly spent some time chatting with me outside of the workshop as well, and I discovered that not only does she have really good writing advice, she's also brilliantly hilarious. In fact, she could probably host her own tv show, but then she wouldn't be writing books any more, and that would be our loss... because her books are fantastic!
I picked up her most recent book, The Splendor Falls, at the con and read it on the flight home from Texas. The title is based on a Tennyson poem, which I read after finishing the book and found to be wonderfully appropriate, so be sure to look up the poem in conjunction with the book.
The story is about a girl named Sylvie who gets shipped off to Alabama after a broken leg ends her dancing career. She finds herself in an old house, rich with her family's history... and with the lingering echoes of her ancestors. Then she starts seeing things, things that shouldn't be there.
The Splendor Falls is one of those rare books that I truly enjoyed being in, instead of feeling the need to rush through. The difference between other books and The Splendor Falls is sort of like the difference between taking a quick shower and luxuriating in the bath; the former is about the end goal and the latter is about the experience. I loved the experience of this book.
One of its greatest strengths is its capital-A Atmosphere. The setting is so real, the history vibrant. I had no trouble believing I was stuck in Nowhere, Alabama. The house, the town and the surrounding landmarks were all easy to picture. And the Civil War era family was infused into the pages of the book, in every detail from the scent of lilac to the apron strings disappearing around the corner.
I loved that this was a ghost story with the feel of magic, not the feel of keep-the-lights-turned-on horror. True, Sylvie got creeped out a few times (as would anyone), but my own reaction was the thrill of well-designed magic, not the chill of terror. I got drawn in and lost myself in the fantasy.
And part of what set the compelling tone of the book was the romance. I found myself cheering on Sylvie's love life from the very start. Every page had just the right amount of tension, and the ending was so very rewarding.
All in all I think this story may become a classic for me, one I return to when I start feeling the need to escape. So thanks for such a great read, Rosemary!