Saturday, April 17, 2010
The Charm School
Author: Susan Wiggs
Publisher: MIRA Books
Isadora Peabody is the "black sheep" of her very socially correct Boston family. When the opportunity presents itself, she manages to get aboard a ship bound for Rio de Janeiro. The voyage takes her on a journey to find herself and to find love with Ryan Calhoun, the captain of her ship.
I was pulled into the story right from the very first chapter! Susan Wiggs makes her characters come alive, each with their own distinctive personality and voice. She establishes Isadora as a character who deserves our pity for her status in her family and society, but at the same time makes us root for her to find success. Isadora is smart and strong, although she has to find her strength and acknowledge it, and she has a sharp wit and sense of humor. She isn't the typical romance heroine, because she isn't introduced as beautiful right away, and in fact has absolutely no friends at the beginning of the story, but she is so real that she jumps right off the page and captured my attention and sympathy from the start. I was emotionally involved in the story all the way through. At the end, when the requisite terrible thing happens, although I knew of course, this being a romance, it would end happily ever after, I actually felt like crying myself as Isadora went into despair.
The story of Isadora and Ryan is extremely real and believable. I liked that there is no "instant attraction" when they first meet, and that their feelings for each other develop over time. I think the development of their relationship, as well as the gradual change Isadora goes through, is shown clearly and credibly - gradually, so the reader can see the changes happening over time.
The side-plots, of the minor characters in the story, are also real and fully developed, no matter how small they are. That's something that I really appreciate. The story of Ryan's mother, her maid, Ryan's servant and his family - they all are complete, not fragments there simply to further the main plot.
I also noticed that the author's writing style adds a lot to the telling of the story. There's a lot of alliteration, repetition, and parallelism, which always strengthens the passages where they're used and creates just the right emotion at the right times.
I really loved this book! I loved the characters, the story, the style... I'm definitely going to be reading more of this author!
Thanks to Abby for recommending Susan Wiggs.