Thursday, September 19, 2013

Review: "The Fountain of St. James Court..." by Sena Jeter Naslund

TitleThe Fountain of St. James Court; or, Portrait of the Artist as an Old Woman
Author: Sena Jeter Nasland
Publisher: William Morrow
Date of Publication: September 17, 2013
Pages: 448

How I Heard About It: My interest was greatly piqued when TLC Book Tours asked me if I would review this hot-off-the-presses novel by best-selling author Sena Jeter Naslund. Sena taught a creative writing workshop while I was an undergraduate, the first of many roundtable workshop classes I would go on to join. 

Two Sentence Summary: The novel weaves together the lives of two female artists in different time periods. Kathryn is a novelist of today in her sixties, living in Louisville, KY and wrapping up the first draft of her most recent creation; Elisabeth is a post French Revolution portrait painter known for her humanizing portrayals of key historical figures from her era. 

Sena Jeter Naslund
Things I Think: This is a very different type of review for me, as "The Fountain..." is the first book in a while I can chalk up as a DNF (Did Not Finish)*. There are a few reasons for this. 

Naslund's prose is uniquely hers: a lyrical, lengthy treatment of sentences; a quietness of plot and pace; intense dedication to three-dimensional description. These stylistic pieces feel consistent with other work of hers that I've read (primarily "Ahab's Wife", which garnered her first big bout of attention and, reputedly, no small amount of money.) 

In the case of "The Fountain..." these elements felt ramped up to a degree that was distracting. The lyricism of the sentences and descriptive pieces, for example, felt almost florid to excess. 

The plot, on the other hand, had little meat on its bones. Kathryn's storyline in particular experienced this lack of momentum, a single action or thought often meriting an entire chapter of its own. Coupled with the intricacy of the sentence structures themselves, the story lost its breath and lost its connection with me.

I hate abandoning books, but the length of this novel plus my difficulty finding purchase in its pages made me move on despite reservations. 

On to the next! 

*I've decided not to post a rating, since I didn't make it to the end of this one.*


Heather J @ TLC Book Tours said...

Thanks for giving this book a shot for the tour.

Melinda Ott said...

I pretty much felt the same about this book, although I did push through to finish it (finally!)