Book Review: The Splendour Falls by Rosemary Clement-Moore
What's it About?
The stunning debut performance of a gifted young ballet dancer is cruelly cut short when she suffers a compound tibia and fibula fracture in front of her horrified audience.
End of debut, end of promising dancing career. At the grand old age of seventeen, Sylvie Davis is faced with having to totally re-think her future.
To top it all she's packed off to stay with Paula, an aunt who Sylvie knows by name only, while her mother and new step-father jet off to their honeymoon.
Enter stage right: Shawn Maddox, the handsome and charming golden boy of Maddox Landing, Alabama, who is eager for Sylvie to join the Teen Town Council. They have rebuilt the gazebo on Paula's land and have complex long-term development plans to reinvigorate the local economy.
Enter stage left: Rhys Griffith, a gorgeous Welsh geologist with ambitions of his own, not least the conservation of an archaeologically important area which would be obliterated by the Teen Town Council's plans.
The remaining cast includes Sylvie's chihuahua who is loved by all except Aunt Paula. Paula does not approve of allowing any dog to sleep inside her beautiful ancestral family home on Bluestone Hill, which New Yorker Sylvie initially dismisses as a Gone With the Wind cliche.
And then there are the ghosts. And a standing stone, and the magic.
An Interview with Rosemary Clement-Moore
About the Author
Rosemary Clement-Moore lives in Arlington, Texas, USA. As a child, she didn't know what career she wanted to pursue. Today she teaches creative writing and to date (2019) has written seven of Young Adult novels.
She has apparently tried her hand at numerous careers, including that of telephone operator, Chuck E. Cheese costumed character, ranch hand, dog groomer, wedding singer, hair model, actress, stage-hand, director, and playwright.
What's to Like?
Written for as a Young Adult novel, this is a fast-paced page-turner with delightful characters.
The main role is filled by Sylvie, who is mourning the death of her father and of her dancing career. Dance has been the central focus of her life. Everything revolved around dance classes and Sylvie's ambitions, and all this was obliterated when she broke her leg. Comfort comes in the form of one small but feisty chihuahua, Gigi, who accompanies Sylvie wherever she goes. To Sylvie, it seems Gigi is the only real friend she has.
As the novel progresses, Sylvie moves on from behaving as a stereotypically resentful and moody, and rather spoiled, teenager to someone who is determined to get the bottom of the mysteries surrounding Bluestone Hill and her family's relationship with the Maddox clan, and its impact on local superstition.
Are strange things happening in Aunt Paula's house and in the surrounding area, or is it merely Sylvie's over-strained imagination, as her new step-father insists?
I suspect that everyone has encountered someone like Shawn Maddox, who is good-looking, popular and charming, a boy who many people assume will go on to do great things with his life. While Sylvie is attracted to him, she is cautious. For one thing, she'll only be staying with her aunt for two weeks and Sylvie has no intention of becoming just another of Shawn's conquests. For another thing, her instincts keep hinting that all is not as it seems.
The conflicts between Shawn and Rhys, and between Sylvie and the housekeeper's daughter, and between Sylvie and her aunt, provide plenty of tension and intrigue. These also keep the novel on solid, believable ground which provide a tidy balance to the elements of mystery and magic in the book.
Other characters in the book strike me as being totally creditable people, with quirks and foibles and just enough backstory to bring them to life. There are several strong female characters and also one elderly character, therefore offering a pleasingly diverse cast.
Rosemary Clement-Moore on How to Write Character Reactions
What's Not to Like?
The supernatural aspects of the novel were quite stereotypical. Neither the ghosts nor the allegedly-magical activities venture onto new ground or attempt to explore these issues with any intellectual depth. Having said that, the novel is aimed at teenagers and young adults, and so this is to be expected.
I think the past life link between Sylvie and Rhys could have been developed further. As things are, this is merely hinted at.
In the circumstances, Sylvie would surely have given more thought to her own future now that her career as a dancer is over. Even if she were to simply chew-over angry or anxious worries about what she might do next with her life, the issue would have been prominent for her. Other people try to prompt her into making plans, but she brushes this aside. Maybe she's in denial. Or maybe this is just my interpretation, me being way too old for the novel's intended audience. Old head, young shoulders, can't put?
The biographical and bibliographical information in this article came from: