Transparent by Joy Eileen

In August, the Segnalibro Book of the Month was Breaking Faith by Joy Eileen. Whilst it had a bit of a slow start, I was gripped and I’m very much looking forward to the release of it’s sequel, Surviving Faith, which is being finished at the moment. I was asked by the author if I would read and review Transparent, her latest novella, with a caveat that I should bear in mind that it was different from Breaking Faith.

Transparent is about Morley, a former art history student who works in local art gallery, Art. After taking home a painting of a 19th Century lord, Alexander Bryne. Morley is woken up in the night by a noise downstairs, and when she hears voices, she thinks she is being robbed. However, it is the voice of Alexander, who has been trapped in the painting by a gypsy curse and he needs help to escape so he can return to his own time, to clear his name after he was accused of theft of a valuable painting. Alexander is convinced that Morley can help him escape. Both Morley and Alexander have to adapt to each others presence and Alexander has to adapt to a modern way of life.

First of all, I want to make it clear that I really enjoyed this book. It was a bizarre plot line and I enjoyed, for the most part, Eileen’s execution of this strange love story. It’s well written, engaging and the characters are really likeable. However, when I put my textual analysis head on, there were things that irked me a little. It didn’t leave me feeling like the book was lacking, just that there were things that could have been unpacked a little more to enhance an already innovative novel.

Alexander is a British Lord from the 1800’s who finds himself in an American home of a single young woman of independent means. Yet, it is very easy to forget the different heritage of the two characters. I’d have liked to have seen Alexander struggle more as he adapts to a highly technological world. Yet, he can text and Google very quickly after leaving the painting. Also, I would have expected a 19th Century Lord to have a little more sensibility when it comes to sleeping with a young woman who is not a prostitute, nor is she his wife. More could have been made of Alexander’s ability to fit in and Morley could have had a harder time getting him to accept modern sexual politics, as Alexander’s 19th Century aristocratic upbringing was ingrained into him. Alexander also finds that cooking comes naturally to him, yet I would imagine that a Lord would have little cooking experience. Little niggles, but niggles nonetheless.

There was one thing that really baffled me. At one point in the book, Alexander goes to a safety deposit box to retrieve his driving license and social security number. As these are both 20th Century items, I was thrown by how this could be possible and if there was an explanation for this, I struggled to grasp it. Perhaps it was a “blink and you’ll miss it” explanation but I  did read that particular section twice to try and find what I’d missed and couldn’t find anything.

Criticisms aside, Eileen captures the reader’s imagination with the unusual plot and manages to explain away most things in a feasible way. I liked Eileen’s writing style, just as I did when I read Breaking Faith. She has an intelligent turn of phrase and you do feel that she has put a lot of effort into selecting just the right expressions and words to use in her narrative. My only real criticism is that, in places, it lacked authenticity for me. Yet, if I put that textual analyst part of me to one side, it is a really nice love story that will entertain any reader who like a romantic tale. I really liked the idea of the plot and I bought into it right from the start, no slow build up like in Breaking Faith. What I’d say is, give this book a read, don’t think too hard about the why’s and wherefore’s, and enjoy it for the pleasant love story that it is.


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