By January 10, 2009 2 Comments Read More →

Temples of Delight

“Jem was a joyful mystery to Alice. She was something to give thanks for. She had first appeared in the classroom, not at the beginning of term like a normal person, but mid-term on a Wednesday. She had appeared, ‘like a dropped acorn’, halfway through the term, halfway through the week, halfway through the Silent Reading Hour. Suddenly there she was in the doorway, almost as tall as the doorway itself. …

It was all so delightful and so thoroughly unscheduled. Jem’s coming. It had all happened so quickly. In the blinking of an eye. Everything had changed. Alice knew at once, on that very first day, that she loved Jem and esteemed her above all others. And that, because of Jem, her whole life–even the Silent Reading Hour–would never be boring again.” (pages 3, 10, Penguin Books, UK edition)

Have you ever had a friend who changed the world for you, who opened it up, made it sparkle? Barbara Trapido’s Temples of Delight opens with the entrance of just such a person into Alice Pilling’s life. When Jem McCrail enters Alice’s school, everyone takes notice, but few are prepared. Even Alice is unprepared what their friendship will mean for her life. Jem comes in full of vivacity and vinegar, spinning tales and throwing out references that keeps Alice’s head spinning with mystery and possibility. And just as suddenly as Jem enters Alice’s life, she disappears.

Because of Jem, Alice’s life is anything but ordinary. Echoes of the opera The Magic Flute, that Jem loved, begin erupting in Alice’s life, as she goes in search of the friend that got away.

Barbara Trapido’s novels are decidedly British, so while I have reveled in them, I have wondered if others would take to them or not. Her characters are touching, wacky, witty, and exasperating, and her plots are cleverly coincidental with a flair for the dramatic. There are allusions to literature, art and music that often fly over my own head, but that lend a certain delectable freight to her work. For me, her writing is as enchanting as Jem McCrail is for Alice Pilling–mysterious, fun, exciting, surprising and over all too soon.

If you like a little drama, a little romance, a little wit and magic, then delve into Trapido’s world. Start with Brother of the More Famous Jack, followed by its sequel The Traveling Hornplayer. Or start with Temples of Delight. And let me know what you think. Or if you hear rumors of anything new from this fabulous, under-the-radar author.

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About the Author:

Misha Stone is a readers' advisory librarian with The Seattle Public Library. Follow her on Twitter at @ahsimlibrarian.

2 Comments on "Temples of Delight"

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  1. mquinn@ala.org' Mary Ellen says:

    Thanks for this, Misha. I’m always looking for new (to me) British authors to read, and now I’ll add Trapido to my list.

  2. linda.johns@spl.org' Linda J. says:

    Misha — you’ve totally sold me on Barbara Trapido and I’m going to give her a try. Thanks so much.

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