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Tuesday, August 2, 2011

The Wild Rose by Jennifer Donnelly

The Wild Rose by Jennifer Donnelly
Publisher: Hyperion
Genre: Historical
Length: Full Length (640 pages)
Heat Level: Spicy
Rating: 5 books
Reviewed by Camellia

The Wild Rose is a part of the sweeping, multi- generational saga that began with The Tea Rose and continued with The Winter Rose. It is London, 1914. World War I looms on the horizon, women are fighting for the right to vote, and explorers are pushing the limits of endurance in the most forbidding corners of the earth. Into this volatile time, Jennifer Donnelly places her vivid and memorable characters:

--Willa Alden, a passionate mountain climber who lost her leg while summiting Kilimanjaro with Seamus Finnegan, and who will never forgive him for saving her life;

--Seamus Finnegan, a polar explorer who tries to forget Willa as he marries a beautiful young schoolteacher back home in England

--Max von Brandt, a handsome German sophisticate who courts high society women, but has a secret agenda in wartime London.

Many other beloved characters from The Winter Rose continue their adventures in The Wild Rose as well. With myriad twists and turns, thrilling cliffhangers, and fabulous period detail and atmosphere, The Wild Rose provides a highly satisfying conclusion to an unforgettable trilogy.

Willa Alden and Seamus Finnegan, soul mates who cannot seem to find their way back to each other, are strong forces that propel the reader into a maelstrom that threatens to overwhelm at times. The Wild Rose is poignant, compelling and often heartbreaking. It takes the reader into the World War I era when social structures and ways of waging war changed forever. It is an amazing love story bit it also encompasses a world of social woes and inexplicable human emotions.

The battle scars of living in hard times and in war time marks the lives of every character in this novel. Each character seems avidly committed to a cause that rules his or her life, a commitment that excludes happiness except in small increments, like brief glimpses of the sunshine on a dreary, cloudy day. Whether it is a quest, a duty, a strong sense of social justice, or a “calling”, something demands the best and continual efforts of the characters at great personal expense.

The Wild Rose is like a huge tapestry that records a significant time in history and in the lives of Willa, Seamus, their families, friends, and associates--some good and some not-so-good.

Sophisticated espionage, political struggles, deplorable living condition in parts of London, and dedicated “do-gooders” (in the very best sense of the word) are background, an ever-present design, in the tapestry while Willa and her quest at wild, pristine Mount Everest stands out in bold. stark, detail showing all the beauty and danger.

The part of the tapestry that shows life in London is crammed full of characters, a few add a touch of humor here and there, but most are serious and many have clandestine agendas that force them to lead doubt lives that create stress and sometimes irreparable hurt.

After Mt. Kilimanjaro where Willa seemed to lose her dreams and her way after she left Seamus, she drives herself mercilessly using opiates to fight the pain of her amputated leg (and wounded soul) she photographs and writes about Mount Everest as battles the cold and makes her way in a unique culture of the people she lives among. Her heart still reaches out to Seamus but she denies herself not only him but also her family that worries about her. She is alone.

Seamus, haunted by what happened at Kilimanjaro, longs for Willa down-deep in his soul. His is a bold design in The Wild Rose tapestry—a design that shows him beautifully male, desired by women, a rover, and polar explorer who slips into a marriage, then into the thick of navel operation in the Mediterranean that finally lands him in a prisoner of war camp in the African desert. After the war, Seamus’ design in the tapestry changes to less bold as the bonds with his little son.

As the Willa design and the Seamus design weave in close to each other then out again during both their near-death war experiences, the reader’s breath is taken away by the barbarism and the covert operations that are carried out in such unfeeling ways.

Finally the tenuous balance of winner and loser of the war finding a way back to some sort of normalcy for the good of humanity proves to be a fragile thread in the tapestry that could so easily break with just the wrong twist or pull.

Post-war England, the shell-shocked soldiers, the desperate struggles to rebuild the economy and foreign relations are all somber designs in the tapestry. One of the darkest, scariest parts is Willa’s wild, beyond-endurance race from Paris to a small village in England to insure the well-being of a little boy and his dad when it seems all the world has turned against her.

The Wild Rosecomes full circle at the foot of Mt. Kilimanjaro. Scarred but content and at peace, Willa and Seamus find their place and joy in their forever love as they share the best of themselves with each other and with one adored child.

Jennifer Donnelly masterfully weaves together a main plot with a multitude of sub-plots--all crammed full of true-to-life characters that stir the whole gamut of emotions from bliss to deepest despair. The Wild Rose is phenomenal.

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