Temples of Delight, by Barbara Trapido

Story of Alice, a girl at a convent school who makes friends with the the mischievous Jem, who's not liked by authority but makes up wonderful stories. After Jem leaves the school under a cloud, Alice's life loses some of its colour, and she spends the first half of the book wondering what happened to her friend. Then she receives a letter from Jem, and discovers that someone is about to publish one of Jem's childhood stories under their own name, and life becomes a little more dramatic.

Like The Travelling Hornplayer, this is really good writing; so much so that the story takes second place. (Also like that book, it was hard to work out when the story was set: until the mention of a mobile phone, I thought it was taking place at the start of the 20th century.) In fact I found the story rather confusing, especially in the last section of the book. Alice becomes romantically entangled with the publisher of Jem's book, but their behaviour towards one another seemed quite irrational. I don't think this was helped by the fact that the cassette I had was a bit mangled and so I missed chunks, but even so there seemed to be a lot of non-sequiturs and changes of mood between the two that I found hard to understand.

Throughout the book a recurring theme is Mozart's "The Magic Flute", and there are characters in the story who do seem to parallel some of those in the opera. If I knew the story of the opera better, maybe I'd have made more of this, but from what I remember that's a little hard to follow as well.

So, great writing, and for the most part a good story (when Alice finds Jem again it's very moving) but a bit let down by the ending (and manky tape).

Completed : 02-Aug-2004 (audiobook)

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