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Monday, June 7, 2010

Review: Prima Donna by Megan Chance

Publisher: Three Rivers Press (Crown Publishing)
Genre: Fiction, Historical
Trade Paperback, 418 pages
Book Source: Allie from Inkwell Management
My Rating: 90/100


Prima Donna is the story of a woman on the run from her own dark past. As a girl, Sabine Conrad discovered that she had a great gift: a voice like an angel. She also had enough naive ambition to believe the promises made to her. Before she realizes the gravity of her mistake, she is caught up in a decadent, glittering world, feted by Knickerbocker New York’s high society, in demand at concert halls throughout the country–and ensnared by a man who both loves and controls her. Their fates become as entwined as their desire for each other, until at the peak of her fame, Sabine risks everything to break free from his Svengali-like hold.

But her plan backfires, and by the end of the night, she is a criminal, scarred and alone, with nowhere to hide. Changing her appearance and her name, she flees as far from cultured society as she can: to the gritty frontier town of Seattle. There, hidden among the prostitutes, drunks and miners, she must put aside the prima donna she once was, and learn how to survive on her own... until someone from her past returns with a terrifying proposition.

Now, Sabine must answer the question she’s been running from: Can she escape herself to once again find the voice that defines her?

In this dual narrative, told in turn by a young, naive Sabine and her older, wiser counterpart, Megan Chance has written a compelling and complex portrait of a woman who is a stranger to herself, who must find the strength and courage to delve into the truth of her past and remake her life–on her own terms.

My Thoughts:

This is a story about journeys and self-discovery. Sabine Conrad is running from a crime she committed. She is also running from herself and the person she has become. In Seattle she changes her name to Marguerite and tries to become a different person; tries to forget who she is. But you can never change who you really are, especially Marguerite. In her past as Sabine, music and singing were everything to her. They were woven into every fiber of her being. Music was her soul.

Every so often, the chapters are entries from Sabine's journal, written during her early days as she tried to build her singing career. Sabine traveled the country with her brother Barrett and her teacher Gideon. Sabine and Gideon fell in love during this time, and maintained a secret relationship. Both Sabine and Gideon did things they regretted, but most of it was to further Sabine's career. There were no innocent parties, just two people who loved each other, but yet never really communicated with each other. You know, say one thing but mean something else. Good things never come from this type of behavior. As the story unfolds Marguerite likes to think of herself as a victim, but she was just as responsible for her actions as Gideon was for encouraging her. Both of them were at fault.

A leopard can only hide her spots for so long, before they pop out again. So it was for Marguerite and music. She was a sad, empty, shell of a person without her singing. Marguerite tries to ease her pain on a daily basis until she befriends Charlotte. Charlotte starts to coax things out of Marguerite, and the walls she built begin to fall. Marguerite begins to face certain truths, and the story moves forward from there. I don't want to give you any spoilers, but I will tell you that Marguerite eventually comes to terms with Sabine. Her actions, her sense of being, who she is. At least now Sabine can now live her life on her own terms with no more secrets.

With respect to 1880s Seattle frontier, Chance's writing certainly brought that time and place to life for me. It was a rough and tumble place, and women did what they had to to survive. Overall I enjoyed the story, however it did drag a bit in the 3rd quarter of the book. I was also a little tired of Sabine's journal entries because she was acting like a child, not growing up. She was a Prima Donna in the truest sense, whereas Marguerite was growing up and realizing herself, who she was. That probably also comes from what she had to do to survive. Towards the end, the story picks up the pace and ends quite well.

Megan Chance's website

My Rating: 90/100

2010 Challenges Met: 100+, Historical Fiction

Thank you Allie for sending me this book to review. 


Sheila (Bookjourney) said...

Wonderful review and I had to read all about it because the book cover caught my eye. :)

Blodeuedd said...

Nice review.
I am sure she would annoy me too, but I guess that is why her older self is there too

Passages to the Past said...

Allie was nice enough to send me a copy for review as well, but I haven't been able to get to it yet.

Thanks for such a great review girlfriend...I haven't read anything in that time period and place and hope to get to this soon!

Irene said...

great review.

bermudaonion said...

Well, it sounds like the title is perfect for the book!

Unknown said...

I'm hoping to read this book soon. I haven't read anything set in this part of the country - so I'm defiantely looking forward to that. Thanks for the review!

Anonymous said...

Hi Jenny (aka JLTR),

It sounds like great book. When i come to my senses i would start to read this book.


Staci said...

I enjoyed your thoughts on this one. I haven't read much about the 1880s in the Seattle area so that's always a cool thing.

Darlene said...

Great review. Reminds me that I must get to reading my copy of this book.

Anonymous said...

The cover caught my eye and the book does sound good. I wonder if I would get annoyed with lack of growth for Sabine, though. But it sounds worthwhile.

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