Sunday, April 4, 2010

March – The Tenth Gift by Jane Johnson

This month, we met and discussed Jane Johnson's The Tenth Gift. Admittedly, I have been less-than kind to last few books that we've read. And with reason; they lacked story-telling. Johnson's novel is the polar opposite. She weaves two stories together seamlessly, and spins a tale of love and pirates. For those of you that have been to my blog Pirates Dig Chicks Who Blog, I'm sure that you can imagine that for me—love and pirates are one in the same.

It took me a while to warm up to this book. A hundred pages to be exact. Literally. On page one hundred the game changer occurs, and what a tale follows. At first, I found myself immensely interested in only Julia's story of love, betrayal, ass-holery, and adultery. I cared little about Cat's story. It just seemed so…typical. But then, oh then, on page one hundred, Cat's congregation is taken by pirates to be sold into slavery, and that is where the tale begins.

The story opens with Julia getting dumped by Michael, who's married to her best friend, Anna. Michael is the King of Assholes. As a consolation prize for being his mistress for seven years, Michael gifts Julia with a book of embroidery patterns. Julia, crushed and angry, turns to the book to look for comfort in the patterns. She did not expect to find, written in the margins, Cat's tale of daily life as it existed for her before she was taken. We get a chance to follow Julia as she deals with the pain of being jilted by her married lover, and all the while Julia also helps a friend through her own personal tragedy, while she reads on about Cat's fate and deals with the guilt and shame she's felt since she became involved with Michael seven years ago. Julia is broken and damaged, yet strong. So, when she decides to travel to Morocco to learn more about Cat's fate, she actually embarks on a journey of self-discovery—and of course, romance.

Cat's tale started only luke-warm for me. She was your typical fair maiden with long red hair who was beautiful, ambitious, and full of gumption. She was slated to marry her cousin, Robert, but she dreamed of a life of far-off adventure. Feeling trapped by the idea of marriage to Robert, Cat recklessly entertains gypsy's palm-reading—which assures her that she'll never marry as Catherine Anne Tregenna. For me, this is where the story really picked up. Cat's talent for embroidery garners her special attention almost immediately—particularly when she is commission to sew the rais' (head pirate) gaping wounds and care for him afterward. Due to her special talents, Cat's sale price on the bidding docks is infinitely higher than that of everyone else's. She ends up being bought by a wealthy man who commissions her to teach the other women in his employ to embroider the most beautiful and intricate works. *Spoiler Alert* It turns out that the pirate rais is the wealthy man who bought Cat, and that they're in Pirate-love. (Woot woot! Go Cat!) This is all much to chagrin of Robert, who's spent the better part of the year in deplorable conditions to rescue his beloved. He finds Cat just at the moment that she and the rais declare their love for one another. How…dramatic!

**For the record, the pirate rais, in my mind, looks like Dogen from Lost. Meow!

Indeed, this novel does not lack in story telling, and the tales that occur over the two time-lines, seem to flow seamlessly. But the story is not without it's flaws. Michael, for starters, should have been left behind. But through a series of events, his wife allows him to stay even after confronting Julia about the seven-year affair, and he ends up making out pretty well. He wanted the embroidery book back when he discovered its worth, and he manages to weasel a deal even there. His wife stays with him because she, "loves him." Blech!

The loser in this story should have been Michael, but the loser from Julia's timeline is Michael's wife Anna, who chooses to hang on to him. In Cat's timeline, Robert saves another girl, Maddy, who is his second choice if you will. He brings her home and then refuses to get over Cat for the rest of his gin-soaked life. Poor Maddy.

The best thing about this book—besides the pirate love—was learning about the reverse slave-trade. Many of us, while aware that it existed, did not realize just how commonplace it was.

A pretty decent read overall.

Admin:
This month we are meeting on April 20 @ 7:30—usual spot. We will be reading Ursula Hegi's Stones from the River.

Welcome to the new followers that have found their way to The Third Tuesday Book Club Blog. I look forward to hearing your thoughts and/or suggestions!