Monday, February 08, 2010

ANGEL AND APOSTLE by Deborah Noyes

I received a copy of this book from the publisher.

I always enjoy when a modern author takes up a classic tale and embellishes upon it or adds to it.  One of my favorites is WIDE SARGASSO SEA by Jean Rhys. So many of these classic characters are so compelling and so charismatic that it is hard to let them go once the story is over.  We yearn to know more.  In ANGEL AND APOSTLE, Deborah Noyes gives readers the chance to see what happened after the end of the SCARLET LETTER. 

ANGEL AND APOSTLE centers on the life of Hester Prynne's daughter, Pearl. Pearl is as impetuous and impish as she appeared in Hawthorne's tale. She has grown up in the shadow of her mother's scarlet A and its accompanying shame and public scorn.  The effects of this state of affairs carry throughout the book. Pearl has no friends so when comes across a young blind boy named Simon and befriends him, it changes her world. When the sinister Dr. Devlin arrives in town and destroys the peace of Pearl and Hester's life, everything changes. The two must travel to England to start a new life. The tale carries through to Pearl's subsequent marriage and adulthood in Europe and how she cannot ever escape the consequences of that scarlet letter.

Noyes has a wonderful writing style that seems to flow seamlessly in a continuation of Hawthorne's work. She does an excellent job imagining Pearl's life and the effects of Hester's choices on that life. I must admit I was very confused by some of the changes and intepretations from SCARLET LETTER.  I had to go back and remind myself of the original plot and players. Noyes makes some changes to the story and I'm not sure they were necessary. However, this story is ultimately compelling and interesting.  It occurs in a unique time and place in history where religion and supersitition thrived side by side while the world faced such terrors as the plague. A very interesting imagining of this classic tale.

BOTTOM LINE: Recommended.  For those who want more from the SCARLET LETTER, Noyes offers a fascinating continuation of the story. While the plot can be a little confusing at times, it is a sad and moving story of how difficult it can be to escape one's past.

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