Monday, March 17, 2014

Splendors and Glooms

Splendors and GloomsSplendors and Glooms by Laura Amy Schlitz

"Newbery Medal winner Laura Amy Schlitz’s Victorian gothic is a rich banquet of dark comedy, scorching magic, and the brilliant and bewitching storytelling that is her trademark."

Clara Wintermute is fascinated with puppets. She requests to have them at her birthday party. Her parents arrange to have Grisini come to the house and present a puppet show with his two young assistants Lizzie Rose Fawr and Parsefall Hooke. The next day, Clara disappears. Grisini is suspesced of kidnapping but the police find nothing in the rented rooms of the puppeteers. Lizzie Rose is saddened, Parsefall is suspicious, and Grisini is smooth and sly. And the twisted tale goes on with magic, travel, mourning, rejoicing, dogs, blood, and reunions!

I began reading this tale last year, but I wanted to listen to it because I heard various good reviews about audio edition. I waited until a local library added it to their catalog and then placed a hold. My original thoughts were very uncertain. I only read a couple chapters, but I had an uneasy feeling about the magic qualities. I adore puppetry, so I wanted to give the complete story a chance.

The magic in the book consisted of supernatural kind with spells and curses rather than the fantastical type with superpowers or time travel. Taking place in Victorian England there were various moments of darkness, fear, poverty, and grime. Every time I heard Grisini's name, I pictured it to be Grease-eeny. He was a greasy character, so the name fit him well. Grisini's "master" was the witch Cassandra. She was quite the manipulator. The children were the best characters and of course the story wrapped around them because this book was written for readers of their ages. Beyond the Clara mystery, Grisini, Cassandra, and the children, there were several other story lines and themes threaded through the book. The Wintermute's were an entire side story with their mourning and recovery. The puppets were also a main theme with first Grisini using them then Parsefall claiming them.

Splendors and Glooms is a very involved story. I would recommend it to Middle Schoolers rather than Elementary students. The story is rather dark and there are a couple language "flourishes" that some parents and readers might not enjoy.

Narrator Davina Porter shared the story well. Her characters were distinct from each other. She captured Parsefall's surliness very well while Lizzi Rose's presice speech reminded me of Audrey Hepburn's portrayal of Eliza Dolittle in My Fair Lady.

Reviewed from a library copy.

Publishers Weekly Q & A with Author Schlitz

Audio Book Details...
Splendors and Glooms by Laura Amy Schlitz
Read by Davinia Porter
Produced by Recorded Books
Number of Discs: 10
Total Time: 12 hours
ISBN: 9781449835729

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