08 May 2013

A Half Forgotten Song; Katherine Webb

A Half Forgotten SongA Half Forgotten Song by Katherine Webb
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Not quite a solid four, but better than a three. For some reason, as I read this I kept thinking that I'd read something similar before. That's not to say that there weren't surprises or that it wasn't a good read, but that there was that niggle in my mind, that the plot (in general) wasn't new.

Anyway, Mitzy/Dimity is one of those wild children, ostracized by the people in her village because her mother is the town hedgewitch/whore (of course those two go together, right?). Wilf, a boy her age, seems to be the only one who will speak with her and defend her (somewhat). Then one day a new family moves in and Mitzy's life is changed. Delphine, a couple of years younger, becomes her only friend, while Elodie is a typical younger sister, jealous of anyone who takes attention away from her. And then there's Charles Aubrey, an artist who has a habit of painting the women he's having an affair with, and Celeste, a half-Berber beauty and mother of Delphine and Elodie. They take Mitzy into their home and, of course, the inevitable happens. With disastrous results for everyone.

Flash forward sixty or so years, and Charles is a celebrated artist who died too early (during WWII). Several of his paintings have sold for a lot of money, but not much is known about one of the subjects, Dennis. Zach is an artist (although he no longer draws) and gallery owner (who doesn't sell much), and his life is at one of those Big Crossroads. There's a rumor that he might be Charles' grandson (through an affair between the artist and his grandmother), and when he has an opportunity to write a book about Charles he goes to the village where the two may have met.

The intertwining of the story of Mitzy's time with the Aubrey household and Zach's quest to learn more (even interviewing an old, possibly starting on the road to dementia, Dimity) worked. So did how Dimity and the Aubreys interacted and how those relationships worked (or didn't). The Moroccan adventure was the biggest problem for me (I just couldn't see Celeste or Valentina, Dimity's mother, allowing it). And the modern day stuff wasn't as well written for me: I wanted more of Zach's life falling apart, more of his investigations into what happened rather than just dissolves into Dimity's memories. What redeemed this, and moved it from a 3 to a near 4, was the Big Reveal (although I do think that Zach wimps out at the very end).

ARC provided by publisher.

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