Saturday, December 1, 2012

The Girl in the Glass: Review

What is more indefinable than love? A story about love, perhaps.

I received a review copy of Susan Meissner’s The Girl in the Glass a couple weeks ago, but just managed to pick it up this week at the end of a busy month. The plot is relatively simple—Meg, or Marguerite, wants to see Florence, her grandmother’s birthplace and Meg’s dream home. She wants her father to take her there, because she wants to believe her father still cares for her after her parents’ divorce nearly twenty years before.

And Meg wants to figure out what love is supposed to be.

As a novel, Meissner’s story is a well crafted and interesting read, weaving three storylines together through three different narratives. The story is told mainly through Meg’s firsthand account, alternating with brief chapters from Medici principessa Nora Orsini’s diary. The third story comes through sections of Sofia’s essay-style memoire, which Meg’s employers—a small publishing agency for travelogues—may be about to publish.

Overall, it was fairly easy to swap between the two main chapter types, but I found Sofia’s memoire to be relatively weak. As much as the Meg and her friends rave about Sofia’s writing, I found those sections less compelling than the rest of the story, and I was happy—once Meg made it to Florence to meet Sofia—to see the memoire sections end soon after. Sofia’s story flowed better as part of Meg’s, besides providing the major plot twist and the key to tying all three storylines together by the end of the book.

As a romance novel, the story was fantastic—complications, tangled love interests, confusion, and doubt abound. The story turns to one basic question repeatedly—if someone likes a person, is a liking enough for love, and if it is love, is it actually love or just love? It’s significant that Meissner prefaces the story with Pablo Picasso’s quote, “Everything you can imagine is real.”

For myself, I enjoyed parts of the story. I might not reread the book, but it was worth some thought to understand Meissner’s picture of love.

Oddly enough, though, I found The Girl in the Glass to be almost as much about failed love as it is about the search for love. By my count, there are only two happy ‘successful’ marriages mentioned in the story. Meg’s ex-fiancĂ© marries early in the story, but more in passing than as a plot point. All the other characters come from broken relationships or divorces.

At some level, I found the number of broken marriages disturbing—though frustrating might be a more accurate word. Sofia’s story introduces a difficult question about reality and how someone can shape their reality. And honestly, while I appreciated the amount of love and enthusiasm Meissner infused into her descriptions of Florence, I found myself skeptical a couple times, especially when Meg and Sofia discuss an old Italian poem by one of the Medicis. The poem’s ‘lesson’ involves a sort of wordplay—“pearling” and “purling”—that usually would not translate from another language into English. It’s my quibble, because I happen to love words more than renaissance paintings or romance stories, but it did stand out to me.

For more information, you can read the first chapter here, or find out more about The Girl in the Glass and Meissner's other books through Waterbrook Multnomah’s site. The Girl in the Glass is a good story for someone who appreciates travelogues or romance, but I might not suggest it as a first read for someone new to either genre.

[My thanks to WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group for sending me a review copy of The Girl in the Glass, in exchange for my honest opinion of this book.]


Diane Estrella said...

Sounds like an interesting book. Hope you have a great week!

I have 4 giveaways going on at my site if you want to pop over. Love making new bloggy pals. :O)


Audrey said...

Thanks, Diane! I'll be sure to check out your site.

BerlinerinPoet said...

I keep hearing about Meissner. Is she worth checking into. I find myself a little on the fence still after reading this blog post.

Audrey said...

It's hard for me to make a recommendation based on only this book--Meissner seems to be a very good writer, worth reading for her characters and plots. I might pick up another of her stories out of curiosity, but I tended to disagree with some of the thinking she uses in this book. I can't say whether you would like her writing, though that might depend on how much you like romances and whether you read for ideas or story.

If you do try any of Meissner's books, though, I'd be interested in knowing what you think!

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