Monday, September 21, 2009

Master Craft

We all fall behind - it happens. Between our own writing, our lives, and the myriad of distractions that pop up like Whack-A-Moles we don't always accomplish what we meant to...

which is why it's 2009 and I only just finished reading Libba Bray's A Great and Terrible Beauty. This trilogy had been calling to me from the bookshelves for a long time. From the enticing cover, to the historical plus paranormal content, I was pretty sure it was the kind of book made for me.

But one thing after another came up and it sat on my shelf, waiting. Last week I finally picked the book up and devoured it in a matter of hours. I had two instant responses: 1) How is it possible that I haven't read this book until now? (see above) 2) Libba Bray is a master of this craft we call writing

What about Bray's book prompted me to adorn her with this mantle of admiration?
The voice in this book is amazing. It's written in first person, present tense - a tense I usually find off putting, but Bray pulls it off beautifully.

The characters are diverse and wonderful. I cared not only about the protagonist, but also was fascinated by the lives of the people that surround her.

She weaves history and contemporary interests in a way that is astounding. I love historical content, but often to serve a modern audience writers make stories or characters anachronistic. Bray creates a world that is very much 19th century Britain but manages to touch on sexuality, feminism, self-abuse, and gender politics in ways that engage the past and present.

And speaking of sexuality - this book is one of the loveliest and most sensual I've read. Bray is no stranger to the fact that Victorians were some of sexiest folk around (don't believe me - read Foucault it's called 'incitement to discourse': the less you're supposed to think or talk about something the more important it becomes to both individuals and society as a whole). The protagonist's sexual awakening is touching for its honesty and the depiction of a terrible, but passionate restraint that 19th century women had to bear.

Bray's writing is a wonderful teaching tool for other authors, she does so much so well. I finished A Great and Terrible Beauty, felt a pinch of sadness and then a surge of joy when I remembered there are two more books in the series! If you need me, I'll be reading...


  1. I really enjoyed that series and her skill at weaving together history, mystery and awakening sexuality. I found a wonderful memoir piece on her blog awhile back--a little gift for her followers.

  2. I want to read those books so badly, but I have no time and no munnies... quite depressing.