Contains paranormal elements
A Handful of Blossoms is a beautifully written, original and engaging work. The novel is not a standard romance book, although it contains significant reflection on the nature of love. It is also one of the most character driven and literary books that I have read in a long time.
It is written in the form of a diary, kept by Constance, a young European princess who in 1764, a year after the Seven Year’s War, has just joined in a dynastic marriage with a European Prince, Constantine, who is much older than her. He is a man who she finds worldly, intellectual and somewhat alluring, but a man who soon makes it clear that he has no interest in requiring her to fulfil her wifely duties as he prefers the favours of men.
Constance soon finds that she is banished from the main dwelling, a gothic like castle, to a small adjacent mansion, in which she is kept company by her maid and a cook. Her life revolves around trying to come to terms with her strange marriage, immersing herself in nature and the rich local folklore and attending the occasional audience with Constantine where the development of their unorthodox relationship drives the plot forward. Constantine maintains an all male household where he is free to indulge his sexuality, although there are no explicit homosexual love making scenes, much being left to the reader’s imagination. The novel does contain reference to one non consensual scene of a sexual nature, but this does not in itself directly involve Constance or Constantine in the act.
There are many references to tales of European folklore, recounted by various characters, and these are recorded by Constance in her diary alongside accounts of daily events and her emotional reaction to them. She also records her relationship with members of Constantine’s household, notably his steward. In addition, there is a mysterious man from Constantine’s past, who has a major part to play in the development of the plot which contains a number of paranormal and gothic inspired scenes, which are recounted in vivid detail. The ending is pendent.
I found myself having much sympathy with the heroine, who finds herself in the position of being both attracted to and repelled by her husband. She is attracted to his persona and intellect, yet is disgusted by some of the actions that others attribute to him and is oftentimes upset by his attitude to her on account of her being a woman. She is a strong character despite her youth. Constantine is a fascinating character, not least due to his esoteric and intellectual interests, and I felt some degree of sympathy with him in that he felt compelled to enter into the dynastic marriage, despite his sexual preferences. However, I was not always convinced that he had his wife’s best interests at heart.
The language used in the novel is lush and intricate and reminded me of a rich tapestry which the viewer needs to take time to savour to appreciate fully. The descriptions of the natural environment are truly beautiful. I found the novel whimsical, literary and full of allegorical tales and narrations, at times it is almost didactic in style as the heroine learns the lessons life presents her with. Here is a quote which is indicative of the tone and content of the novel:
Misty morning outside the window. The shades of rosy and blue are wet with dew. The air is filled with silent stillness. Senses awake……….. I muse about the indifference of beautiful things and their perfection.”
I was completely drawn into the world described in the tale and recommend it to readers who like to explore the nature of love in all its forms, intellectual and esoteric pursuits and society’s expectations. The novel will also appeal to those who enjoy reading about paranormal events and European pagan folklore. The author’s latest novel, Silver Thread Spinner, also contains a paranormal character who appears in this novel.
Reviewed by Tina Williams
A copy of the novel was provided by the author for the purpose of a fair and honest review.
“Every kingdom has three pillars: Poet, Sword and Law.” (Lara Biyuts)