Wednesday, August 20, 2008

The Winter Rose - Jennifer Donnelly

When India Selwyn Jones, a young woman from a noble family, graduates from the London School of Medicine for Women in 1900, her professors advise her to set up her practice in London’s esteemed Harley Street. Driven and idealistic, India chooses to work in the city’s East End instead, serving the desperately poor.

In these grim streets, India meets—and saves the life of London’s most notorious gangster, Sid Malone. A hard, wounded man, Malone is the opposite of India’s aristocratic fiancé, Freddie Lytton, a rising star in the House of Commons.Though Malone represents all she despises, India finds herself unwillingly drawn ever closer to him, intrigued by his hidden, mysterious past.

Though they fight hard against their feelings, India and Sid fall in love, and their unpredictable, passionate and bittersweet affair causes destruction they could never have imagined. Sweeping from London to Kenya to the wild, remote coast of California, The Winter Rose is a breathtaking return to the epic historical novel, from a masterful writer with a fresh, richly vivid, and utterly electrifying voice.

Wow! I just finished reading this book and I have to say I enjoyed it even more than The Tea Rose. Donnelly once again takes on a roller coaster of emotions but making us familiar once more with the misery of London's poverty and the difficulty of doing something to change that reality. In India and Sid she brings us two characters bent on changing that and have to go through terrible times because of that wish and their love.

I really liked them! India for her sheer determination in wanting to do something good and Sid for despite living the life he led he still maintained a kind heart and helped how he could the ones who had nothing. It's interesting to see how they are brought together when in the beginning it seems that they have nothing in common and how they have to fight the obstacles in their way. India first saves Sid's life and ends up asking him for help in obtaining birth control devices for her patients while he admires her will to help the poor and wants to repay her for saving his life. Once again Donnelly's descriptions almost convinced me I was there with her characters, besides her wonderful portrayal of people and places (besides London the story takes us to Africa) I really enjoyed knowing more about the medical procedures in the beginning of the XX century and how difficult it was for women to start practising and be respected as competent professionals.

She also does a very good job with the villains! More than in the Tea Rose, where the bad guys were mostly absent and the action went forward due to coincidences or the natural evolution of the situations the characters were in, here the bad guys play an important role on how the main characters live their lives. And she wrote them so well that for a while I was more worried with the bad guys having their comeuppance than I was with India and Sid having a happy ending!

It was really nice to revisit the Bristows and Seamie Finnegan (I wonder if the next book is about him).

Grade: A

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