Rating: 5 Stars of 5
I had a dilemma. I had written two book reviews before in my new role as a book reviewer, and both were five star reviews. If I were to read Denise Greenwood’s novel, Temptation, and liked it very well, could I possibly give another five star review? Would I be marking myself as a “five star reviewer?” In truth, I believed before I began to read Ms. Greenwood’s novel that this was not going to be my British cup of tea.
The plot accounts for what would seem to be ordinary lives in a small English village where not much of consequence happens on a daily basis. The cast of characters within the story inhabits a small church and a little restaurant/pub named “Cherries” that is well managed by Jarvis, a very capable entrepreneur who builds a business steadily according to his five year plan. The reader meets and becomes acquainted with a couple waitresses, a town boy or two, three chefs, a young minister not very liked by his ancient and horrible congregation, and some peripheral characters who serve as plot movers. Some of the characters at first seem to have very practical goals, while others seem to be adrift in life. As I began to read this story, I worried that it had all the ingredients of a big yawn.
I did not have to worry. For one thing, Ms. Greenwood has an extraordinary talent for bringing the hues of ordinary lives into living color, vibrant against the greyness of the drab village life. She does this with the artistry of a jeweler who polishes a dull stone into a jewel of great price. She writes with an incredible gift for observing the details of daily life. Her descriptions of the village environment and its geography draw the reader into a world richer in observations than he or she has in the world outside this novel. It was easy to spot the author’s passions. One is definitely cooking. Several times I had to “google” dishes that she described and even some herbs. Cherries is a bar. I am only a beer drinker, but her descriptions of wines and drinks have given me a desire to move a little past the hops that pass through my ordinary palate.
What this novel does is to draw you in by the descriptions, the hearts of the characters, and what the author describes as her dark humor. I found her humor to be delightful, not dark in the sense of disturbing. Through the writing in her novel, the author challenges staid, old conceptions of life held by people in towns small and large. She hates prejudices and stupid views of religion and relishes shaking up a fixed belief or two.
What I found is that there is a plot skillfully managed. I was charmed into its slow pace by the richness of the descriptions and characterizations. Certainly by the second half of the novel, I found myself wondering what was going to happen next. Best of all, I came to care about the characters and wanted things to work out for them. I had become totally engrossed and happy that, because I was so busy in life, I was enjoying a novel taking me a while to finish. It became the pleasant alone time that I looked forward to each day.
Like all novels, it is not perfect. The things I did not like are very nitpicking. To me, the author uses too much passive voice. I would like to see a little more dialog. That pretty much summarizes my negative literary criticism, and those are simply my preferences of style.
The novel’s plot has a couple shockers. The story ends in a very satisfying way. It is a neat ending, but not overly tidy. I think the ending is nearly perfect in terms of what would probably happen in this little village given the circumstances of the plot.
I would definitely describe the genre of this novel as literary fiction, and I recommend it for people who enjoy the richness of description, characterization, and conflict of human emotion. As a reader I quickly came to trust the author in the handling of her story and characters. Ms. Greenwood set the pace masterfully. It was her pace, and it was the right one. Go for a little Temptation, and prepare to become engrossed!
Website for more information: http://www.denise-greenwood.com/