Sunday, October 24, 2010

Illyria, by Elizabeth Hand

Madeline and Rogan share a love for the theater and for each other. Descendants of a famous stage star and also first cousins, they share a number of secrets (secret hideaways, secret rendezvous, and a special secret attic with a magical miniature stage). However, their forbidden love for each other and for the stage threatens to destroy them both. Told completely in the hindsight of adulthood from Madeline's viewpoint, we learn about their growth into stars and their loss of innocence and love.

This is a beautifully-written short novel, but it is problematic for me because (beyond describing a life full of disappointments) it lacks much of a story. The narrator's perspective (an adult looking wistfully back on the folly of youth) is not really YA, but rather an adult's book about childhood. And finally, the book is a stylistic mess. Themes ranging from explicit incest to sheer fantasy are picked up carelessly and dropped just as quickly. The overall mood is dreamy and random. The result is pretty but not terribly compelling.

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