Wednesday, 26 November 2014

When Rosa Came Home by Karen Wyld

When they open the door for their wayward daughter, Rosa's parents are not prepared for who else turns up at the Ambrosio family vineyard.

....the spirit of a poet, nurses who crochet magical rugs, a beautiful bearded lady, elephants from the dreamscape, a m├ędecin sans medicine and his dancing python, a jealous stable-hand, acrobatic pirates of the dark web, a sleeping beauty with a secret or two, and a young girl who longs for a new sister....

Angelita Ambrosio narrates the stories of her secret sister’s time on the road, and yearns for adventures of her own. Amid precious tales, graciously shared by Rosa's eclectic friends, a fractured family is reunited.

Not everyone is pleased to see Rosa return - peril lurks in dark places. Fear not: with a sprinkling of cosmic dust, a cloud of sawdust and a touch of magic, a new dawn will bloom - now that Rosa has come home.

Goodreads description

Karen Wyld is a fellow writer on the Magic Realist Books Facebook Group and I was keen to read her new book, having seen her contributions to the group and the Magic Realism Blog Hop. I was not disappointed - the book is delightful. 

The narrator is Angelita, a bright child who used to sing like an angel but who has become mute. The choice of this narrator provides both opportunities and challenges for the author (and therefore the reader). Angelita's muteness makes her the perfect listener, making her at times invisible to the adults around her and also meaning that they confide in her. As a succession of visitors to the sleeping Rosa reveal aspects of her life, the child listens and tries to piece together what happened to make Rosa leave and what she did afterwards. In this Angelita acts for the reader, but Angelita is a child so she is limited as an intermediary. 

Angelita's childish innocence means that she doesn't always understand the significance of what she is hearing. Angelita believes that everything will turn out for the best, that Rosa will wake up, that the book's one antagonist will not hurt her. There is the opportunity here for the writer to use more dramatic irony to increase tension with the adult reader seeing potential danger, however the author seems to back away from doing so. 

Over on my writer's blog, prompted by reading this book, I talk about some of the issues around using first-person narration. A lot happens off-screen in this novel. Most of the time that is part of the book's charm, but it felt unsatisfactory towards the end. I wanted to know more. It does seem to me that Karen painted herself into a bit of a corner by her choice of first-person narration.

The book has many strengths. There are some beautiful descriptions of a child's world in which magic really does exist and of the fascinating and fantastical beings that enter it. I particularly enjoyed the way that all Angelita's senses feature in those descriptions. The author draws on many traditions - myths, fairytales and of course magic realism. The realism lies in the family and sexual relationships that are revealed through the course of the book. Despite this realism there is a charming gentleness about When Rosa Came Home, a gentleness that stems from its exceptionally well-drawn narrator.

This is a lovely debut from a highly talented writer. I look forward to reading her next book.


Yvonne Hertzberger said...

OK, I couldn't resist any longer and got this.I've heard so many great things about it.

Yvonne Hertzberger said...

Just started reading it an am entranced.