Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Review: Lone Star by Paullina Simons

Title:  Lone Star

Author: Paullina Simons
Publisher: 1st April 2015 by Harper Collins Australia
Pages: 627 pages
How I Read It: ARC ebook
Genre: historical fiction, romance, young adult
My Rating:  two cups


From the bestselling, acclaimed author of Tully and The Bronze Horseman comes the unforgettable love story between a college-bound young woman and a traveling troubadour on his way to war—a moving, compelling novel of love lost and found set against the stunning backdrop of Eastern Europe.

Chloe is just weeks away from heading off to college and starting a new life far from her home in Maine when she embarks on a great European adventure with her boyfriend and two best friends. Their destination is Barcelona, but first they must detour through the historic cities of Eastern Europe to keep an old family promise.

Here, in this fledgling post-Communist world, Chloe meets a charming American vagabond named Johnny, who carries a guitar, an easy smile—and a lifetime of secrets. From Treblinka to Trieste, from Karnikava to Krakow, from Vilnius to Venice, the unlikely band of friends and lovers traverse the old world on a train trip that becomes a treacherous journey into Europe’s and Johnny’s darkest past—a journey that jeopardizes Chloe’s plans for the future and all she ever thought she wanted.

But the lifelong bonds Chloe and her friends share are about to be put to the ultimate test—and whether or not they reach Barcelona, they can only be certain that their lives will never be the same again.

A sweeping, beautiful tale that mesmerizes and enchants, Lone Star will linger long in the memory once the final page is turned.

My thoughts:

Paullina Simons, you frustrate me so. Some books are absolute winners  (the first two books of her Bronze Horsemen trilogy were brilliant); a couple more Simons books that I read were not enjoyable reads. I thought to give it one more go. I wish I hadn’t. First, I think this book clearly needs to be labeled as ‘Young Adult’, because the bickering and tantrums really were far from pleasurable adult reading. It was childish. The first part of the novel is written from the main character, Chloe’s, point of view. Laying the foundations for this European ‘coming of age’ trip took forever. The first one hundred pages or more are really slow with the inclusion of so many mundane details given in excruciating proportions. For example, pages on why the mother changed her name to Chloe Divine.

In part two, the quartet make it to Europe and if you can see past their whining and teenage selfishness, the story takes an interesting turn when Johnny Rainbow comes on the scene. Their longed for pre-College trip to Barcelona, quickly dissolves into one of chaos in the first degree. I understand that it’s a coming of age novel and for that the focus really should have solely centred on Chloe. This is her story and the decisions she will make that shape her future:

“Chloe just wanted to know who she was. Not who she wanted to be. But who she actually was…..

“You think you can drift on the train from Spain to France not knowing where your next stop will be in the fervent hope that you’ll come closer to an answer to that most profound of human questions?”

“And what question is that, Mom?”
“Who you are, of course”.
Was there ever a mother more infuriatingly on point that her mother!”

Despite some flashes of the wonderful writing we know Simons capable of, I found Lone Star to be boring and tedious. The narrative is so long with so many irrelevant inclusions, that I even began to question her writing style. At one point I found it almost undecipherable! For example:

“When yesterday? … Yes yesterday….I don’t remember yesterday, it was today I said I’d wait…You said tomorrow…Yes. Today was tomorrow yesterday…..But you said you don’t remember yesterday….I meant today. When did you get here?.....Yesterday”.

Also, part two saw a change in writer’s point of view (POV). Suddenly we had passages from each of the four travelling adolescents and this made for a bit of confusion. Firstly, because for the first part of the book, the writing had me picturing them a certain way. Yet, when the author wrote for each of them, I struggled to match that with what I had initially pictured. For example, I pretty much tagged Blake as the ‘Jock’ but he proved me wrong:

“I just want to stumble around and be stunned by the whole thing. But I pretend to have a plan…..I want nothing. Truly. Except just to be”.

Secondly, the change in POV didn’t really work for me because these four friends, having planned the trip of a lifetime, were suddenly and constantly, at each other’s throats:

“And yet here we are, ladies and gentlemen, our dream vacation and no one’s talking to anyone”.

Thirdly, the change in POV also was difficult to follow because sometimes it was written in first person, then switched to second person and then finally third person, all within the turning of a page. I found myself often having to skip back to see who was talking about whom.

Finally Simons also uses this story as a platform to detail loads of information on the Holocaust. Obviously, without doubt very interesting, but alternately very hard to align with this desperate young adult angst each page confronted you with. Pages of information, especially on the village of Treblinka, were very interesting but at times felt like an information dump:

“In 1942 at the moment Hitler felt most invincible that he began his long-planned construction of the six death camps”.

Paullina Simons is a writer of epic proportions. If this tale had been edited and zoned in on the coming of age of one young girl, it would have been a worthy read. All up it felt that Simons tried to pull together too many characters, too many threads and the essence of it was lost in the wordy dialogue and information.

This review is based on a complimentary copy from the publisher and provided through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. The quoted material may have changed in the final release.

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