Plot: Malin’s plot is a fast-paced, whirlwind journey through France for protagonist Belle and her mother. The storyline quickly unfolds to reveal several family mysteries as both Belle and her mother harbor secrets from one another with the intentions of preserving personal dignity. Much of the plot is flimsily centered around Belle’s infatuation (bordering on obsession) with Claude Monet and his work, which can overshadow the more alluring content--notably, a mother’s attempts to bond with her daughters and the disclosure of a dark family affair.
Prose: While there are moments of eloquent writing with exceptional flow, much of Malin’s novel is expressed through back-and-forth international phone calls between Belle and her family, and two love interests, ex-husband Max and former beau Dominic. These dialogue-heavy passages distract from more thoughtful musings and reflections on human nature, which are infused with a spritely--at times sarcastic--sense of humor.
Originality: Malin’s storyline is certainly original, though the focus on romantic entanglements and self-discovery is reminiscent of works of inspirational romance. The central focus on Belle and her mother’s feuds over Monet is unique, if overemphasized.
Character Development: Characters are intricately and meticulously fleshed out, from vivid physical descriptions to their personal introspection. The reveal of a hard-hitting family secret brings the novel closure, however unsettling and unfulfilling, to both Belle and readers.
Date Submitted: July 22, 2018