The book: The Last Storyteller, by Diane Noble
The edition: Waterbook Press paperback, with Reader’s Guide, 372 pages
The story: feeling abandoned by her mother, Taite doesn’t want children of her own. When she finds out she’s pregnant, she decides to abort without even telling her boyfriend Sam, who is leaving for a year of medical internship on the other side of the States. While trying to deal with the pregnancy/abortion, she also finds out that her grandmother Victoria suffers from dementia, so Taite takes it on herself to take care of her. In return, Victoria tries to talk Taite out of the abortion and into faith and love, and to do so she resorts to ancient family lore, with a story about a couple in medieval Wales.
My experience with the book & my thoughts: this was the second time I read a book that can be categorized as Christian fiction. The first one (I won’t tell you the author/title) was awful, but I appreciated it for being Christian fiction. This one, it’s a great book, but I was disturbed by its characteristics as Christian fiction.
This is to say that I have issues with Christian fiction; yet maybe this is not the best place to delve on them (I’d have to write a whole post about it, maybe I’ll do that). Anyway, I didn’t even realize I was reading Christian fiction before I was well into the book, so it wasn’t a big drawback either.
That said, I liked this book. I liked the characters, all of them, and the book was a light read, nice and smooth. The story is well constructed (if somewhat stretched on some points) and there is enough suspense to let the author dwell on major themes (like abortion, stem cell research, faith and the mother/daughter relationship) without any fall in the reader’s interest.
What I liked: the way pregnancy and stem cell research issue were linked together. I think it’s important to consider both aspects, and I also know it’s too easy to overdo things and use emotional levers to bring people on your side of the debate, but here it was well balanced.
What I didn’t like: the medieval adventure. While I usually like books that interweave different storylines set in different times (such as The Gargoyle, People of the Book etc.), in this case there were enough mysteries in the main story that I didn’t see the need for the medieval one. Also Gwynedd’s travels made no sense to me (trying to reach Caer on foot, hoping to get there before the horse-riding army? Actually getting there after much wandering, and still before the army?)
Language & writing: while I found the writing enjoyable as a whole, I do have issues with the ancient-sounding word and turn of phrase thrown in here and there in dialogs from the medieval story. An example:
“Yonder lies my flock.” He nodded to the sheep outside the abbey’s gates.
“And I, sir, am a sheperdess,” the fair girl said, blushing prettily. “My family’s flock lies beyond the mere. ‘Tis a healthy one.” She lifted her chin with pride. “Already good vellum has been made from the hides of last year’s ewes.”
It may be just me (I am not too familiar with the nuances of past English usage), but it made the characters sound like they were playing Middle Ages dress-up, like they were expressively using obsolete words (while the author, I guess, intended them to convey the sense of the time, but to feel right in the characters’ mouths).
Also, I was puzzled when my readers told me that some of the words used, this time in the main storyline, were “dated”. I wonder if the author was trying to convey something by her choice of words, too — likely I missed the right time-frame or something.
Random thought: I’m quite unsatisfied with epilogues, lately. Either they don’t tell you what happened to the characters (see Death and the Devil), or they sound unreal (as here: Taite tells Isabel everything that happened in between, while it is clearly stated that Isabel already knows…).
Read this if: if you like Christian fiction, this is a great choice. Also, if you want a novel with plenty of food for thought.
Counts as: One Two Theme Challenge – Pregnancy book #2