Friday, February 16, 2018

Book Review: 'The Traveller's Daughter' by Michelle Vernal

New Zealand author Michelle Vernal writes novels, articles for magazines, and also serves as local newspaper reporter. That she owns a fine tuned sense of humor and a healthy outlook on relationships is evident in the four books she has written to date – THE BRAZILIAN JOB, SECOND HAND JANE, BEING SHIRLEY and THE TRAVELLER’S DAUGHTER. For an inside peek at the way Michelle peaks at life read her bio on her author page – it is as fine as a novella!

There is a quality to Michelle’s writing that is evident at each book’s opening. Her manner with words is so honest and yet so seductive that it is at times difficult to discern whether she is writing a stage play or a novel. While it is now an established fact that she can write romance novels with ease, in this book she introduces another element that adds to the depth of the story – incorporating history in a way that seems so developmentally natural that the historical portions truly embellish the plot being developed in the present. Example, without forewarning Michelle starts her story with a diary entry: ‘Rosa’s Journal - Kitty, if you are reading this, my darling girl, then we have come full circle. Oh, I’ve sat down so many times and picked up a pen sure that this time I will write my story down for you. You’ll never plough a field by turning it over in your mind, though, and I’d always put that pen down again. The problem was that I could never find a place in which to start. The thought of writing down all those words, well it would overwhelm me. So then I would think perhaps it would be better if I just got on a train and came to see you instead. Yes, Rosa old girl that’s what you should do, I’d tell myself my mind made up. I’d sit you down with a nice, strong cup of tea and give it to you straight. Face to face before it was too late, but then I’d come back to what stopped me writing it all down in the first place. Where should I begin? I think perhaps at last I have realised that therein lies the answer, but I’m not ready, not just yet, and so I’ll digress. My past was my Pandora’s Box, and while I kept the lid firmly shut on it, I found that I could keep moving forward. Perhaps I shouldn’t have done so but I had my reasons or at least I thought I did. It’s strange the way we humans can twist and turn our actions until they fit inside that box just the way we want them to.’

Or as the synopsis prepares us, ‘Rosa Sorenson’s conversation was often peppered with sayings from her homeland. It was these conversational clangers that gave her daughter Kitty the only clue as to a childhood her mother refused to speak of. When she passes away suddenly, Kitty is resigned to never knowing the girl her mother once was. Then out of the blue she receives an invitation that will take her on a journey into the past Rosa never shared with her. Renowned photographer, Christian Beauvau has been commissioned to recreate the iconic print, Midsummer Lovers the shot that made him famous fifty years ago. It’s the first Kitty has heard of the photograph and she’s amazed to learn it features her mother as a young woman alongside a man called Michael in the Provencal town of Uzes, France. Together with Michael’s nephew she has been invited to pose for the anniversary shot. Leaving her fledgling London cupcake business in the hands of her flatmate and her ex Damien, who has been sniffing back around, she accepts. In doing so, she will find more than she ever imagined.’

Flavorful, fascinating, and often illuminating, this is a giant step forward for Michelle Vernal – romance with terrific substance. Grady Harp January 16

Editor's note: This review has been published with the permission of Grady Harp. Like what you read? Subscribe to the SFRB's free daily email notice so you can be up-to-date on our latest articles. Scroll up this page to the sign-up field on your right.