Sunday, March 29, 2009

Book Review: The Rose Variations by Marisha Chamberlain

The Rose Variations by Marisha Chamberlain

Published by SOHO Press

Rating: 4.5 stars

The Rose Variations begins in 1975, and follows the story of Rose McGregor, who has just moved to Minnesota to teach music at a Midwestern college. She is on her own for the first time and must cope with academia's complex inner world, and being the only female faculty in the music department, she has her work cut out for her. Soon enough, Rose befriends some other members of the staff which only complicates her life even more.

After falling in love with a local stonemason named Guy, their affair is ripped apart by a bold choice Rose secretly makes and so she runs off to live with a group of female musicians in the countryside after being invited by the homeowner, an eccentric cellist named Lila. As soon as Rose is settled in her routine, her pregnant sister Natalie shows up in need of assistance, and Rose's life is turned upside down once again. The second part of the book takes places a number of years later as Rose's niece shows up on her doorstep by herself with no explanation, complicating Rose's life yet again. The narrative continues with more romances for Rose but even more heartache as she struggles with her independence and success in the face of many obstacles.

This book has so much more to it than meets the eye. What started off as a small story of a young woman develops into a complex saga filled with many love interests, friends, and the pain of betrayal from those who Rose loves the most. This is such a difficult story to summarize because its impossible to capture all of the depth and storylines. This is Marisha Chamberlain's first novel, however it came as no surprise to me that she is also an accomplished playwright, given the elaborate and dramatic story she has created.

At first it seemed like Chamberlain was attempting to tackle too many storylines and issues, however, after reading on, I began to discover that each event in Rose's life has shaped her on some way and is a crucial part of the story. I think that is particularly why I was disappointed with the story's ending because after having read so much about Rose's life, I was left to interpret and imagine where life will take her next. There are many unanswered questions and having developed a connection to Rose and her struggles and passion for life, I was sad that I didn't get the closure that I felt I needed as a reader.

Nontheless, The Rose Variations ia a complex character study of a very interesting and admirable woman and ultimately is a worthwhile read. Not only is the narrative captivating, but the writing is so well developed and expertly exposes Rose's inner thoughts and emotions. I hope to read more from Ms. Chamberlain in the future.

BIG THANKS to Sarah and SOHO Press for my review copy.


bermudaonion said...

Too bad the end didn't wrap up like it should have - I don't like ambiguous endings either. The cover of the book made me laugh, though. It reminded me of a high school friend who would wrestle his cello on to the school bus.

Anonymous said...

i love books with strong female characters; this one sounds quite good! your review is well written and really grabbed my interest. the more reviews i read, the more books i keep adding to my tbr list.