Palaces and Calluses, by Rebecca Woodhead
This is the first ebook I’ve ever reviewed.
As such, a few discussions that were unrelated to the book’s merit floated about in my brain while I was reading it, making annoyingly unscheduled appearances where I really ought to have been thinking about things like text and plot. I will address those in a later post. For now, the book itself.
Some of you will remember that I have just finished reading Sophie’s Choice. It was a true labor to read and review that book, so when this book, described the author as sheer fun, crossed my virtual desk, I knew I had to give it a read. That, and I’m a sucker for books set in England from any era.
What an absolute treat. The book opens on Mary’s rich and storied life as it falls apart. She’s forced to take a job selling footcare lotions and potions in order to get by, and she develops a personality of her own as various opportunities come her way.
I recently read another book about a woman who might be described as equally spoiled. I didn’t like that book at all, because the main character didn’t grow. But Mary does grow. She’s an interesting character with interesting reactions to things. I enjoyed watching her life peak and ebb; I enjoyed waiting to see what kind of action she’d take to evade what she didn’t want, and how she’d pursue what she thought she wanted in life.
Most important, I enjoyed watching what she wanted in life change as her circumstances changed. Mary is a real person, and I’d have her over to coffee any day, even at her worst moments.
Let’s talk for a moment about supporting characters. In the other book I reviewed of this ilk, I lamented the fact that there was no foil for the annoying MC, no one she could bounce her ideas off of. Palaces and Calluses has one of these, and she’s eminently likable. Jackie is everything Mary isn’t. She’s had a hard life, true love notwithstanding, and understands a serious work ethic. She’s the perfect counterpart to Mary’s occasional tantrums, and the right person to bring her out of them.
Mary’s parents, her new friends, and her dog, Rock all provide comedic relief, situations for Mary to find herself out of, support in other ways. Good stuff.
I viewed the book trailer to Palaces and Calluses after I’d read the book, so I was surprised to see one aspect of the book that I saw as a mere vehicle was meant to be a true driving force in the plot of the book.
In part this is due to Woodhead’s command of light-hearted prose. There’s plenty of humor in the book, but I did find that Woodhead does handle some events with almost too much subtlety, inadvertantly encouraging the reader to gloss over an event that might actually be quite important.
Likewise, point-of-view shifts. Although Woodhead handles most of these quite well utilizing chapter breaks, the balance shifts too quickly and too heavily sometimes, leaving the reader wondering if we’ve missed something, or if we’re really reading a book that will eventually unfold into parallel storylines.
In any case, I enjoyed this book, and will be looking forward to the second installation of the series, called the Cotswald Chronicles. At the very least, Woodhead provides fine escapist literature. An afternoon’s amusement well spent, I say.
You can visit Rebecca Woodhead at her web site, here.