Thursday, March 18, 2010

Book Review: Angel and Apostle by Deborah Noyes

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 Over the last few years I've become enamored with and entertained by the many Jane Austen sequels, spinoffs and retellings that have flooded the market.  When a pseudo-sequel of Nathaniel Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter came my way in the form of Deborah Noyes' Angel and Apostle, I was eager to discover where this story would lead.  No, Nathaniel Hawthorne is not Jane Austen, but like Jane he's a beloved 19th Century author who wrote multiple classic works.  An expansion on his vision was an intriguing concept to me.

My initial reaction to Deborah's writing was that of enjoyment and admiration.  She adeptly captures the flavor of Nathaniel Hawthorne's style, yet without trying to totally mimic it or copy it.  Her writing is rich, poetic and is sometimes worth a pause to read again for savoring.  This is no Chick-Lit spinoff novel.  This is written in the style of literature.

As many spoilers could be given in the summarization of this novel, I'll take care in what details I reveal. Suffice it to say, the entire tale is told from the perspective of Hester Prynne's illegitimate child, Pearl.  The story begins near the time period that ends The Scarlet Letter, 1649.  At it's conclusion, Pearl is a grown woman with an impish child of her own.

I felt that Noyes' vision of what may have transpired in Pearl's life both during and after the conclusion of Letter was believable.  Characters and plot devices continue on paths that are either well-worn or are reasonable to assume.  Hester wallows in her shame and self-condemnation, transferring much disdain to Pearl.  Men are frequently callous, cruel and self-serving.  Hardship and death seem to be around every corner.

While I admire Noyes' writing style and agree with the decisions she made in crafting the story, the book was hard to complete.  The plot was frequently dour, and there are few moments of mirth or levity to be found.  This may be true to Hawthorne's original work, but I didn't find it enjoyable or enticing.  In general I give Noyes high marks, but in the end I was glad to be done with this title and ready for something moderately optimistic.

In the near future I'll be reading another book of this type, Hester by Paula Reed.  Both it and A & A will be offered in a Scarlet Letter prize pack giveaway after I post my review.  I hope Hester is a more enjoyable experience.  Regardless, in the meantime, my next read will be decidedly more lighthearted than Angel & Apostle.



  1. Wonderful review Laura. I I have not (yet) read any of the spin offs although a couple are on my shelf. I have been torn about reading them but enjoyed your review here and it gave me a different perspective on these books. :)

  2. Thanks, Sheila! This one was well written, but I was glad to move on. I'm looking forward to Hester, though.


  3. Interesting idea to take a classic and continue the story!

  4. Came over from Cym Lowell's McLinky links for Book Review Party Wednesday.

    The way I perceive your review is, it is a very gentle way of voicing what is essentially a negative review. Bravo on your honesty and kind-heartedness!

  5. Cherry:

    I guess it is a little negative. I hesitate to use that term, because Ms. Noyes is a wonderful writer. It just wasn't a "fun" story, but I really can't expect that from an accurate portrayal of Hawthorne's world. I think it's supposed to be less than cheerful.

    Thanks for coming over from Cym's party!




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