The Thorn and the Blossom by Theodora Goss

Happy Valentine’s Day to all!  Does anyone go all out and relish in the abundance of candy, pink hearts, and mushy greeting cards?  My house doesn’t although there generally is some candy to be had or chocolate covered strawberries.  To honor the holiday this year, I selected the perfect book for a quick read and review!  The Thorn and the Blossom is a high concept novel that arrives in its own slip case (beautifully designed) and once removed unfolds in an accordion-esque fashion.  That’s all I needed to know to add this selection to my shelves – I’m quite easy when it comes to books.

Goss tells the simple love story of Evelyn Morgan and Brendan Thorne.  They meet during college in England and off and on throughout the years, decades, and perhaps, even centuries.  What makes this tale particularly interesting is that Evelyn’s POV is told on one side of the accordion fold, while Brendan’s is on the other.  You decide whether to start with Evelyn or with Brendan and your reading will definitely be shaped by this choice.  One perspective ends rather ambiguously, the other less so, but together come full circle.  I chose Evelyn’s side first as deemed by fate.  Feel free to choose whichever tickles your fancy, but I felt I had made the ‘correct’ decision upon finishing.

Quirk Books loves to publish fun books that experiment with the nature of reading.  I love how willingly they explore various mediums and forms and offer a home to all the quicky, whimsical books rejected by the stodgy, traditional publishing houses.  I’ve enjoyed taking this book off my shelves and showing family and friends – it always gets admired and coveted with the requisite ohs and ahs.  The concept alone makes the $17 worth spending.

The love story, however, is not so pleasing.  At least not for me.  Call me cold-hearted, but nothing within The Thorn and the Blossom earned my adoration.  The books lacks development and depth.  The conceptional form I just finished praising succeeds in enticing readers while simultaneously sacrificing what could have been a sweeping romantic saga.  I never felt attached or invested in either Evelyn, Brendan, or their relationship as a whole.  The ability to see the story from both POVs was clever and successfully served its purpose, but the giddy smile I expected to don upon finishing these 82 pages sadly never arrived.  Obviously, the novel had to be short to make the book readable, but should books value form over substance?  When does a book cease being a book?  You know this argument – art for art’s sake and all that.  Am I a hypocrite for wanting books to experiment but still retain their bookish-ness?

I feel like the Grinch who stole Valentine’s Day.  I can feel my heart shrinking.  Perhaps a heavy dose of candy hearts will ease my moral conundrums!

Of course, many readers take great delight in sweet, magical fairy tales.  For those readers, The Thorn and the Blossom will be a quick, romantic way to spend an hour or two, especially on V-Day.  You could even read it aloud with your significant other, each reading a different side.  My husband would laugh me at of the room at this suggestion.  It would also make a beautiful gift for a bookish friend, but be forewarned that this novel, whimsical as it is, is not appropriate for young children which has surprised several readers.  I personally recommend it more as a work of ‘art’ rather than a brilliant ‘story’, but there is room in the world for both!


6 thoughts on “The Thorn and the Blossom by Theodora Goss

  1. It sounds as if the design and concept are wonderful, but the book not so much. I have been hearing a lot about this one, and I really want to get the chance to check it out in person to see the artistry that went into creating it, but I am not so sure about the story inside. Thanks for giving us the full scoop on this one. It helped me decide if i wanted to buy this one considerably!

    • If you’re the kind of book geek that will buy a book solely based on a pretty cover, this one is perfect. If you require a superb story, characterization, or any sort of depth – not a good choice!

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