Tuesday, May 20, 2014

City of Jasmine by Deanna Raybourn

I am book-crushing on this book so hard I cannot even think straight.

I just wander around dreamily and want to draw Gabriel's name over and over on a notebook, scribbling hearts around it.

City of Jasmine is all of the books you love and all of the banter you love spanning through all of the great romances you love.  Its Lawrence of Arabia setting is populated by the brilliant aviatrix Evangeline Starke. Years ago at a New Year's Eve party on the cusp of the Great War, Evie met the dashing and improbably charming Gabriel Starke and eloped with him.  But as fast as you can say Percy Blakeney is a Demm'd Elusive Pimpernel he changed and got cold and their passion flickered dim.  Evie found herself married to a stranger and drew up divorce papers just as Gabriel was reported lost with the Lusitania.

Five years after his death, she senses him around her: in an old song and photograph, a few cryptic messages, the fact that try as she might to escape to the other side of the world--barnstorming with beautiful lipstick and gorgeously taut curls-- he is never far from her mind. Thus, it is rather convenient when he turns out to be not-quite dead after all.  In fact, very much alive and very much on the trail of a priceless religious artifact.

Nothing says couples' therapy like wandering through the desert being swung at, sliced at and shot at alongside a man who has become a stranger in life while still haunting your dreams.

If a book can be heartbreaking and beautifully funny at the same time: if it can have the first tang of a martini with immediate rush of intoxication even before your fingers fully tingle --- it is this.  If it can act as a looking glass to which you see, in heightened coloured goodness, all of the romances that have swept you into the past, then this is it.  This is it. This is Charles Boyer describing the subway to Hedy Lamar in Algiers. This is Percy kissing the stone steps where Marguerite's slipper has trod in The Scarlet Pimpernel this is Emerson Radcliffe and Amelia Peabody's first shirt-button-popping encounter in Elizabeth Peters' series.

And yet-- it is the best homage: for even as it wades wistfully into the great romances of the past, so Raybourn's voice is charmingly unique and knowing --- a sly wink and a raised glass --she knows you know and the whole thing is just jolly fun with this achingly perfect self consciousness.

  I cannot express how breathlessly in love with this book I am. I read it first in one sitting and then picked it up and began at the beginning and it has been lulling around in my brain like an unending tune ever since.

Can we have a moment to nod to Longfellow here and his ballad to gorgeous L'Acadie? Poetry is a major motif in the prequel novella Whisper of Jasmine as in this novel and it is five times more swoon worthy than the most blatantly visceral sequence d'amour you might ever read.    The characters are pitch perfect, the banter is sublime ( stay tuned for an entire blog post JUST on my favourite quotes) and the setting--oh the gloriously be-jewelled setting, sonorous and sweet with opaque and turquoise tones, whiffs of gorgeous scents, the lushly harsh desert, ancient ruins and the hint of mysticism at an artifact linked to Christ.

I cannot handle this book. I am just going to go pass out from sheer love in a corner and someone can bring me smelling salts.  I have been ruined for real life, I died a thousand deaths and I still taste my favourite words on the tip of my tongue.  This is a book I want to dream in.

NOTE: prequel novella is awesome and less than 2.00 buy them BOTH http://www.amazon.com/Whisper-Jasmine-Deanna-Raybourn-ebook/dp/B00G79ZNJ6/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1400605569&sr=8-1&keywords=whisper+of+jasmine

1 comment:

Unknown said...

How can I pass this book up after reading this review?!