Monday, May 17, 2010

Tryst, Elswyth Thane

"Sabrina had never picked a lock in her life, but it was done every day in books. She tiptoed along the carpeted upper passage and whisked around the corner to the second flight of stairs leading to the top floor of the house. Gripped tightly in one hand she carried her burglar tools- nail scissors with curved points, a button-hook, and some wire hairpins stolen from Aunt Effie's dressing-table." p.3

I loved this opening paragraph. I was instantly sucked in and had to know why Sabrina was out picking locks.

I wish I could remember which book list I saw this one recommended on so I could back and see what other lovely books I've been missing out on for my whole life! I got this copy from the library and it had been rebound in blank boards sometime in the past 71 years so I had no hints from cover art or jacket copy where this story was going. And I'm so glad I was able to read it with no glimmer of what was to come. I don't think I would have been quite so enthralled if I had already known the truth about Hilary's situation. That moment in the middle of the book was so stunning to me. Maybe I'm just a horrible guesser but I wasn't sure where the story would be going right up until the last pages. And, oh, the ending! I was crying but in such a happy, content way.

There's been so much fuss about supernatural romances written for teens over the past few years and I have definitely enjoyed my share (Hello, Twilight!) but this one is on such a higher plane. I think about Caitlin Flanagan describing her earlier reading life:

"...never have I had such an intense relationship with books as when I was a young girl. I raged inside them and lived a double emotional life (half real girl, half inhabitant of a distant world)."
 That is how I felt when I read Tryst. And I wonder how I would have felt if this book had fallen into my hands at age 12 instead of 28. If I was a librarian I would be foisting this on all the Twihard tweens I could find.

I loved that so much of Hilary and Sabrina's romance is developed through their shared love of books; Sabrina getting to know Hilary through his boyhood library, their mutual rereading of Kipling's Kim, and I love Sabrina's bookish questions for Hilary:

"Most of them were well worn, and looked very traveled. There were odd stains and injuries to their bindings. Some of them appeared to be have been chewed by mice or beetles. Some had got wet. It was hardly possible for books which had remained all their lives at Nuns Farthing to look like that unless he had slung them round the garden and dropped them in the bath.

If he came back that would be one of the first questions she would ask him- What have you done to your poor books?" p.26
At any rate I loved it. I need to find my own copy now and I am alternating between wanting desperately to find more of Elswyth Thane's novels to read and being really afraid they won't live up to my high expectations at this point.

The real thing that I keep wondering about is this:  are there more books like this out there? Tryst was perfect for me and, greedy and impatient reader that I am, my thoughts have turned to finding more books like this one. And I don't know how to find them. At this point I'll settle for rereading. And renting this:

Tryst Review
Amazon Reviews

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