The Wild Rose, Jennifer Donnelly

Hyperion, 2011

Jennifer Donnelly is fantastic. I have read all five of her books and have not been let down yet. This one was no exception. First off, I beg you not judge this book by the cover because appearances can be deceiving. I’ll bet your first instinct was to assume this book is nothing more than sappy pulp romance. The Wild Rose? Pink script? A review by Romantic Times Book Review on the back cover? Preposterous! I admit it was enough to deter me from reading this on public transit – but I promise you, there is more to this book. Murder! Espionage! Intrigue! Adultery! World War 1! Shell shock! Switched babies! Lawrence of Arabia! It’s all here!

Okay, maybe some of this can be considered a little pulpy – but I guarantee Jennifer’s books to be your new guilty pleasure (Oh, look at that – first name basis. I must really love this woman). This particular book concludes a trilogy of “Roses”. Before things got Wild, there was The Tea Rose, then The Winter Rose. And – guess what! – each “rose” is a lovely woman. Fiona was the trailblazer of the first book, a teenager who had to pick up her life after both parents were killed in seedy East London of the 1800’s (one by Jack the Ripper!). Then there was Miss India Selwyn Jones, a lady doctor in the turn of the century. She becomes entwined in the lives of Fiona, and London’s top crime boss, two people who are also entwined in a surprising way I won’t spoil for you. The Wild Rose focuses on the firecracker Willa, an explorer who lost her leg (and her one true love!) when she summited Kilimanjaro. Willa’s a neat sort of heroine because (aside from also doing heroine) she’s got rough edges and serious problems and regrets. She makes mistakes – stupid ones – but you still love her. This is thanks to Jennifer’s (it just slips out! I swear!) writing talent. Every character is so brutally honest – you see every aspect of them, good and bad. And Willa’s a bit of both. Aside from characterization, though – and you’ll also read this on the back flap – these books are amazing for adventure, twists and turns. Every time you think it’s about time you put the lights out (because it’s already 2:00 am and you’ve been reading since 10:30), there’s another twist! (My sister can attest to this by telling you how many times I yelled things like “Max von Brandt I hate you!”, and “He’s DEAD?!”, and then, “HE’S ALIVE?!” from the next room over.) I’m constantly at the edge of my seat. Jenny does have one bad habit of writing in small sentences. Just at times. To make a point. But it’s a minor detail. You’ll see.

All in all – everything is wonderfully paced, the plot original, the historical details so vivid. I could go on and on (I already have), but I’ll stop here. Pick up a copy of whatever Jennifer Donnelly book is nearest you, and start reading (here’s some inspiration!). Then tell me what you think!

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5 responses

  1. Hee hee. Great review of a great guilty pleasure book/series — you obviously approached them in just the spirit in which “Jenny” wrote them! They’re definitely not romances … or should I say JUST romances — there’s way too much well-researched historical detail, action, drama, clever plot twists, etc.. Remember Nigel Tufnel from Spinal Tap, whose guitar amp goes up to 11? These books are totally turned up to 11!

    The Rose books are so different from her YA books, which are more literary and (in Revolution’s case, at least) very intense. (Not to say the Rose books aren’t tear jerkers — they certainly are — but Rev is, I don’t know, a soul-jerker, if that makes any sense.)

    She has said she writes escapist fiction for adults to give them some relief from the real world and literary fiction for young adults to give them an introduction to the real world. Interesting!

  2. Pingback: In Celebration of Books & Blogging | A Novel Thing

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