Monday, November 30, 2020

The Last True Poets of the Sea, by Julia Drake

Violet has been shipped off to her uncle in Maine.  It's their family's ancestral home and Violet's family has been there so long that they actually helped to found the town, after her ancestor was shipwrecked off the coast.  

Shipwrecked is precisely the way Violet feels.  Her family is falling apart.  Her disturbed brother has been institutionalized and her parents are in counseling.  Violet feels discarded.

Spending a summer in Maine is quite a change from her home in New York City and she surprises herself by quickly acclimating to it, even if she is a walking disaster at her volunteer job at the local aquarium.  She makes friends with her co-worker Orion and with Liv, a local history fanatic who is researching the circumstances surrounding the town's founding (and is ecstatic to have an actual descendent with whom to talk).  When Violet agrees to play matchmaker between Orion and Liv, she discovers to her surprise that the girl's actually falling for her instead!  The story culminates in a search for the remains of the ship that wrecked off the coast and started the whole thing in what is intended to be a loose adaptation of Twelfth Night.

I don't know about the Shakespearean aspirations, but what starts off as a fairly complicated beach summer story gradually morphs in the end into something with pretensions of...well, something-I'm-not sure-what!  I was happy reading the mystery of the shipwreck, the crazy miscommunications of the Violet/Orion/Liv love triangle, and the madcap adventures with tourists and townies.  But in the last seventy pages or so, we start drifting into deep messages and meditations on fraternal love and the whole novel starts to lose me.  The end is basically another shipwreck and I didn't care for it as much.  Still, there's a good story here and great characters and the bulk of the book is an enjoyable read.  So, a mixed review for me!

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