The Winter Rose by Jennifer Donnelly
What a thrill! Unlike some books, ahem, The Favored Child, which blew my mind all over my face, The Winter Rose blew my mind all over the place. That’s a good thing.
Given that I read this book exactly one year ago and I’m still picking pieces of my brain off the floor, that’s a clear thumbs up. It’s also taken me a year to compose this review, thereby cementing my reigning status as Master Procrastinator.
England. 1900. Upper-crusty India Selwyn Jones just graduated from an all femme med school (which is rare for a woman back then, as rare as a rose…in winter? Dude, I totally get the title!) and is itching to start a practice in the Whitechapel slums. But her snooty fiancée, Freddie Lytton, an up-and-coming politician, is against India’s career goals and, along with India’s manipulative mother, attempts to thwart India at every turn. It’s like Titanic all over again, especially when India heals Freddie’s arch-nemesis, the mob boss Sid Malone. Sid’s thugs refer to Sid as The Gov’ner because he rules over Whitechapel like a Slumdog Robin Hood and, like the Sheriff of Nottingham, Freddie has vowed to CRUSH Sid and his merry men.
After several steamy Victorian nights with Sid, India realizes that Sid has a heart after all, a heart of GOLD. Freddie, on the other hand, has a mantra: “Woud’st thou be king? Rip out thy own heart.” Holy shit! Freddie speaks in ‘thys’ and ‘thous’ and soliloquizes in front of his ancestral portrait. Holy shit X 2! Dude is evil… And he’s sleeping with Sid’s mistress! But Sid’s making sweet sweet love to India! After reading The Favored Child, I’m just glad no one in this book is related. I can’t stomach another ‘Oops, I slept with my brother again.’
Don’t let the tome-like size of The Winter Rose turn you into a wussy. This book is one of the most exciting books I’ve ever read. It’s got homicides, underground tunnel chases, assassination attempts, people getting shot in the back and jumping out of windows, people hooking cables onto clock towers and Spiderman-ing around London, steamy lovemaking scenes, great prison escapes, emergency amputations, rabid hyenas, and a lion’s den. It’s also got the most perfect ending this side of The Witch of Blackbird Pond.
If you’re into sweeping epics spanning many generations with plenty of drama for yo mamma, read this book. Read. It. Now.