Cover rating: Oh, my, I love this book cover. So sensuous and so penitent. Mysterious, dark background with the bowed head of a woman of "unruly passions" who seems ashamed of herself, as all good women of the time frame of France's 2nd Empire (1860-1871) need be. Her opulent dress, red-stoned earrings, hair style and full blown rose don't speak to her true sorrow, however. Something is amiss... I love the beautiful decorative lace at the bottom of the cover, the font throughout, the tatooish design in the middle of her back, and the separation of the author's name. The author's name stands out beautifully as it should. This cover tells the story of the book perfectly. Rated: A+
The Dame's Full Review: I wanted so much to love "The Unruly Passions of Eugenie R." The cover had me from the moment I saw it. I would have paid top dollar for it just for the cover art alone, and the anticipation of reading what must only have been a wonderful story within. Good thing I was fortunate enough to receive a netgalley. Sadly, this book was a surprising disappointment.
Let's say from the out-start that this book is in keeping with such books as "Sister Carrie," "Tess..., " "Ruth," and others about young women who leave the security of hearth and home, are seduced by the wealthy, beautiful young man, find themselves pregnant and destitute and have to turn to debauchery... In this case, it's simply set in Napoleonic France. That being said, you can nearly predict how the story will go.
Written in staccato voice, it grated. The words were relentless. Descriptive in places, but falling drunkenly about with too much fluff surrounding them. The essence of Eugenie's story was clouded by the wordiness and vague implications of too many things. Some vagueness one could understand, but this was like reading a Picasso! (I read Picasso's without much too much difficulty, so this may not be the best example, but you take my meaning.) Further, I happen to be one who loves historical fiction and France in particular. So, you know if I had a difficult time, we're talking a serious issue.
I found myself nearly pulling my hair out, wanting a substantive story to pick up. I wanted to fall in love with it, it had all the possibilities. With so little to go on in early characterization, it was just impossible. A third of the way in (roughly 125 pages), I have to say, I started skimming for something to sink my teeth into. Then, I realized if I was doing that....I couldn't recommend it to any of my readers.
Nearly every single writer, reader and teacher/professor I've ever encountered has said that the sign of a good book is the ability of an author to engender the interest and passions of the reader around character(s). A good story with good characters makes a book great, and creates the classics. What didn't happen for me in "The Unruly Passions of Eugenie R." is a clarity of characterization. I couldn't find the complete character to know her well enough, to fall in love with her soon enough, to keep me interested enough to keep reading the book.
What I also found so disappointing in this is that the bones of a good story were there. It seemed the execution of the book was lacking. Ms DeSanti is no slouch in the world of books and publishing, obvious to us via her bio. She's not anything if not daunting.
If you look at the accolades she's received from quite famous authors about "Unruly..." you'll be shocked that I could possibly write a review such as this. All I can say is "Emperor's New Clothes."
Gulp.... I'll probably never receive another book in my life from Penguin.
My concern is that someone wasn't honest enough with Ms. DeSanti to give her a good edit. Someone in her group of cronies wasn't brave enough to get real with her.The book could have been brilliant with some help. Instead, she was cheated from giving her best work I'm betting, and we are left with only high hopes for a next book. I hope she writes again, in less time, less studied over, and with some great editing. Sometimes ten years or more is too long to birth a book.
"Unruly Passions...." was published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
3 stars for effort and research
http://caroledesanti.com Here is a link to her beautiful, artistically created website! Go there and be dazzled! You will also find an excerpt of the book.
Carole DeSanti, known for her championing of independent, high-quality voices
in women’s fiction as an editor at Penguin, has been clandestinely writing The
Unruly Passions of Eugénie R. for over a decade. She has been profiled in
Poets & Writers’ Magazine, published in the Women’s Review of Books, and
awarded fellowships at the Five College Women’s Studies Research Center and