The Thorn and The Blossom, A Two-Sided Love Story
Theodora Goss, Quirk Books, 2012
You can always expect the unexpected from the creative, innovative and, well, quirky Quirk Books. The Philadelphia-based independent publisher is the literary home of the NYT bestselling, runaway hit Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children, the itch-inducing thriller Bedbugs, and now the charmingly designed The Thorn and The Blossom, A Two-Sided Love Story.
From the publisher: "The Thorn and the Blossom tells the story of Evelyn Morgan, who, when she walks into the Thorne & Son bookshop, meets the love of her life. When Brendan Thorne hands her a medieval poem called The Book of the Green Knight, he doesn’t know that it will shape his future. After that first meeting, they don’t see each other for years—and yet neither ever stops thinking about the other. It’s as if they are the haunted lovers in the old book itself... ." What makes this book unique is that the tale of Evelyn and Brendan's romance is told twice- once from Brendan's point of view, and once from Evelyn's. Their stories are printed on opposite sides of accordion-fold paper with a spineless binding, allowing the reader to choose which story to read first.
The book is truly very pretty, and it is clear the publisher has taken a lot of care with the details. The cover art reminds one of an embroidered tapestry such as you might find hanging in The Cloisters, the book is printed on fine quality paper, with beautiful title pages and endpapers, and comes in an attractive sleeve. First impression: perfect for gifting. The pictures depicting the hero and heroine (of the modern story and the Green Knight poem) at the beginning of each story remind us of the prints or etchings found in antique books, hearkening back to medieval times. The concept of the dual stories, and the idea of Brendan and Evelyn's connection to the original characters in the poem, hold much promise.
How does one decide which story to read first? For no particular reason, I chose Brendan's story. The novel itself is very brief (the length limited, I'm guessing, in part by the unusual design) and I read through it briskly and for the most part, enjoyably. There is not a lot of depth to the characters, or much complexity to the plot, but The Thorn and the Blossom makes no pretense of being a sweeping novel or a literary heavyweight of a book. It is a simple tale of out-of-step lovers, with a hint of enchanted connection to the past. As far as the romance goes, it's a little unfulfilling - there's an open-endedness to the two stories that, while it encourages you to continue onto the other side, doesn't leave one feeling exactly satisfied in the end. Overall more style than substance, but stylish indeed.
If you would like to learn more about the book and see the accordion fold in action, check out this trailer:
I received a complimentary copy of The Thorn and the Blossom from the publisher. All opinions expressed are my own.