Friday, November 19, 2010

The Three Loves of Persimmon, by Cassandra Golds

Published by Penguin, 2010

Persimmon is a young lady devoted to her florist shop, at the top of the Botanical Gardens Railway Station. She has been disowned by her family for following the flower profession, and although clever and kind, is rather lonely. Epiphany is a mouse who believes there must be more to the world than the confines of Platform One. Each must undergo their own trials of love, heartbreak, imagination and adventure before they can find the place where they truly belong.
I am divided about this book. On one hand, there were moments of such cleverness and loveliness that is just charmed the socks off me. There are some pithy insights about people and the world around us, beautiful moments of both reflection and descriptive prose, and some genuinely delightful, funny lines, particularly from Persimmon’s ornamental cabbage Rose. I love fairytales, and I love what this book is trying to be. I love the innocence of it. I love how every creature, every action, is made to feel important, is never derivative in comparison to something else. There is a gorgeous mix of the quirky and the real.
Yet I feel like that whatever the book is going for, it isn’t quite there yet. I think some parts are overwritten and overstated, which ruins whatever lovely thing the author has just described or had her characters say. Similarly, the way characters speak, the way events play out, sometimes it feels like they are designed to have a particular effect. This insults the reader’s integrity. There is, perhaps, a little too much telling instead of showing. And although this is certainly a unique book, parts feel derivative – a little too sentimental, a little too neat. What I really wanted was just for Golds to let her story breathe – everything is there, it’s just the way she chooses to tell it.
Parts I particularly enjoyed were the development of Persimmon’s three loves – it  is great to see a young adult/children’s author dealing with the idea that love is not always perfect, that it must develop, that it takes many trys with many significant others to get it right. I LOVED the stuff about Walter and the theatre, having a fondness for the theatre and the theatre life myself. Rose was a great character, with many cabbagey intricacies. And the train station setting, especially Persimmon’s florist shop, was gorgeous. The devotion both she and Epiphany have to flowers (both literally and figuratively) is a delight to read.

"This flower's petals were as red as blood and the fold upon fold of them made a mysterious kind of face that was turned towards her and, it seemed to Epiphany, smiling the gentlest, most beautific smile ... Epiphany extended her trembling whiskered nose into the tips of the petals ... she gazed and gazed into the heart of the rose."

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