Monday, November 26, 2007
Gilda Rises Above Everything
I was first exposed to Gilda Joyce last year during the Cybils reading period, when I read The Ladies of the Lake and liked it a lot.
I liked the newest Gilda Joyce book by Jennifer Allison, too, though I'm not quite so enthusiastic as I was about the book I read last year. For one thing, I don't remember Gilda being quite so over the top as she is in The Ghost Sonata. She's still funny, smart, and unique, but transporting a number of bizarre costumes to Oxford, England and then wearing them (a 60s mod outfit, a sequined gown to accompany a tiara) seemed to make her a little laughable. Though this book, like its predecessor, functions pretty well as a stand alone book, I do think readers who aren't familiar with the earlier works might be thrown when, well into the story, Gilda starts writing a letter to her dead father. I don't have a problem with Gilda writing to her dead dad, I just think it's not set up particularly well in this volume.
The Ghost Sonata involves Gilda accompanying her friend Wendy to Oxford where Wendy will take part in an international piano competition. I've never been to Oxford, but the setting certainly seemed realistic to me. I've never taken part in any kind of international competition, either, but, once again, that aspect of the book was great. The ghosty stuff was good, too. I looked forward to getting back to the book, plus I didn't quite foresee the ending. I expected a slightly different explanation.
I did find the point of view switches awkward, though. The Ghost Sonata is written in the third person, with a point of view character who changes. Usually Gilda is the p.o.v. character, but sometimes it's her friend Wendy. A few times it switches to other, more secondary characters.
The writing done from these other characters' minds is good. Wendy, in particular, is a good character. But the switches seemed abrupt, and they came irregularly. It made the storyline seem as if it was broken into chunks. It's one of those things, like footnotes, that pulls a reader away from a story.
Now, this may not be the result of poor work on the author's part. It may be that I so rarely see books written this way anymore that I no longer can move along with the narrator. The omniscient point of view--a third person narrator that shifts from character to character--isn't very popular these days. A third person point of view with a point of view character who remains the same through the entire work is more common, when third person is used at all. Particularly in children's books and YA, first person is king.
I don't think Allison used this kind of shift in The Ladies of the Lake. Whether or not what she does her with point of view in The Ghost Sonata is one hundred percent successful, I think she deserves some credit for doing something different with one of her series' books.
Gilda Joyce is still a great series. A popular one, too. I just tried to renew my copy at the library and found there was a hold on it.