Monday, July 16, 2007

Listening for Lions, by Gloria Whelan

Rachel was born in Africa near the turn of the century to a missionary family running a hospital in the bush. When both of her parents succumb to the flu, she is taken in by the shady Pritchard family who scheme to have her impersonate their late daughter to get their family back in the good graces of the rich elder Pritchard. Rachel (now Valerie Pritchard) must embark of a trip to England to visit her "grandfather" for the Pritchards and leave behind her beloved Africa.

Combining some of the classic cliches of the orphan genre with some warm dialog and cultural detail, this is a charming book. The book is broken into three parts and, of these, the first two are the most interesting. The third suffers from a drastic telescoping of the narrative as Whelan rushes to the end of her story. One imagines that the third part probably needed another 100 pages or so to tell adequately and one wonders why she chopped it down so brutally, undercutting a fascinating character. A beautiful start but a flawed ended.

No comments: