Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Black Roses by Francis Brett Young

Black Roses by Francis Brett Young2.5 Stars

If you're new to Francis Brett Young I wouldn't start with "Black Roses ". It is so different from his usual style and in my opinion, not his finest work. In fact, if I didnt know FBY wrote this, his name would never have crossed my mind.

The setting is Naples, before, during, and after the cholera epidemic in the 1880's that killed thousands. Our male protagonist is a struggling artist and his caddish friend, a doctor.

The female in the story is a tortured "kept" woman (not a prostitute, more of an imprisoned mistress) much older than Paolo who runs the boarding house. Their relationship is strange, and I'm not talking about the age difference (that means nothing to me); Its strange in that it's so unclear. Is it friendship? Is it pity? Is it respect? Love? What kind of love? Our hero is at times enraptured by Christina and just as frequently repelled by her. For my part, well, I never really warmed to her. She is clingy and frightened and possessive and overall trudged upon. One can pity her but I'm not feeling it.

Apparently FBY wrote this story based on the memories a friend who experienced the cholera plague first hand. That I think is what makes this novel ever so slightly miss the mark. It never felt like his own and therefore just didn't quite speak to me in the way his other stories had.

But I'm glad I read it. It was unusual.


SEX: alluded to but not shown
VIOLENCE: Not an issue


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