The Small Rain by Madeleine L'Engle
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Never having read any of Ms. L'Engle's adult fiction, I wasn't sure what to expect - now I'm eager to read the sequel.
Katherine is a funny child - not comfortable around other children, a little stiff and distant around adults - whose family is in disarray. Her father, a composer, is too scattered to care for her and her mother has been away for a few years following a serious car accident (it's never clear if this was drunk driving or a suicide attempt or simply an accident), so Katherine is staying with Aunt Manya, an actress. We start with 10-year-old Katherine backstage waiting to go in in Manya's current production on the day before she is reunited with Julie, her mother.
Julie's pianist career is over, thanks to the accident, and her beauty has been dimmed due to scarring, but to Katherine she's as wonderful as ever. She continues to keep Katherine out of school (although had she stayed with Manya, she'd have gone to Professional Children's School!!) and it isn't until four years later, when Julie dies, that Katherine is sent to a regular school, this time a boarding school in Switzerland.
There she continues her solitary ways until she meets her piano teacher (and first love) Justin and until an old acquaintance from New York, Sarah, enrolls. There's young love, a "no passionate friendships" moment, and throughout all this, Katherine is relatively removed from what's really going on in her world. This distance continues through the book (including her engagement to Peter) although she does tend to cling to those she met when she was young.
The plot and pacing of the book are wonderful, but the dialog is so stilted that at times it's a little comical. However, this was a first novel and you can see promise for the future (or am I saying this because I know her YA books and love them already?).
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