Thursday, May 27, 2010

The Forget-Me-Not Sonata - Santa Montefiore

This is for my Grandma who passed away on the 22nd of this month: I miss you.

She has done it again. Whoever likes Santa Montefiore or not, I am her fan. She has this way of taking the reader on a wild goose chase and just when you think that neither book nor the characters are redeemable, she finishes the whole thing off so beautifully that you simply don't have the heart to complain. The Forget-Me-Not Sonata was all this and more.

The place is post second world war Argentina, a small community of English expats just outside of Beunos Aires and the time is summer: golden and filled with life, at least for sisters Audrey and Isla growing up in the leafy suburb of Hurlingham, with days of wild horse rides across the pampa, tennis matches at the club and picnics galore with their mother and aunts. Audrey and Isla are English without ever having set foot in England. Isla, the younger one who simply wants to gobbles up life has a mischievous spirit whereas Audrey, quieter, dreams about love nearly all the time. Things affect Audrey on a much keener level. Into their peaceable life blows a tempest in the form of the Forrester brothers, Cecil and Louis. While Cecil, the dashing war hero is admired by everyone and considered a prize catch, his troubled brother Louis the gifted pianist and shirker from the war is rather looked down upon as unstable and unsuitable as a suitor. Audrey's parents harbor a hope that she and Cecil would fall in love and make a match of it and Cecil himself begins to form an attachment to the girl. But for Audrey, from the moment she lay eyes on him, there can ever be one man and one love: Louis. The two are drawn into the intensity of their emotions for each other and apprehensive of what the unforgiving expat community would say of their love, they embark upon a secret affair that consumes their very souls. Louis writes for Audrey a haunting melody that she calls the Forget-Me-Not-Sonata, a tune which will haunt her for the rest of her life. Time and things are running out of Audrey's hands, Cecil's attentions are getting more marked everyday and she needs to come out into the open about Louis and fast. Things reach a crescendo with the sudden tragic death of Isla: Audrey is seized by a wavering of thought. How can she cause her grieving parents more sorrow by marrying a man they would not approve of? Is marrying Cecil the right choice after all? But can she ever forget Louis?

The Forget-Me-Not-Sonata is a tale that is melancholic and exasperating but I enjoyed it immensely, for it made me look beyond the small imperfections and flaws and realize with a sort of regret, that characters just don't behave the way you want them to, but it doesn't make their story any less compelling. Audrey makes for an irritating protagonist, but, in spite of it all I found myself asking if she wasn't totally justified in her actions. Love like Audrey's and Louis's is rare, something that a romantic dreams about but it is also tempestuous and self centered. What is love after all? An all consuming passion that makes you blind to everything else, that sets you heart on fire or a gentle stealing upon your heart and soul, a love that is truly unconditional and forgives you your trespasses with nobility of character? There are two men in Audrey's life but it is up to the reader to decide who was the better man between them. Although this story is for Audrey and Louis, it is really about Cecil Forrester and it is Cecil Forrester, with all his little idiosyncrasies that I have come to feel an affection for.

The Forget-Me-Not Sonata is a book to be enjoyed without over analysis. It takes you on a blind and erratic journey but in the end leaves you with a profound sense of satisfaction. I cannot wait to get my hands on another one of Montefiore's books!


Kals said...

I'm sorry about your Grandma * Hugs *

This book, like this review, sounds lovely. I've never read Montefiore and I'd like to start right away. I notice you're reading Confessions Of A Jane Austen Addict. I bought the book and am looking forward to reading it soon! =)

bikerguy said...

hey, sounds like a nice read...
i liked that line: "characters just don't behave the way you want them to, but it doesn't make their story any less compelling". i mean isn't that what real life is all about...sometimes life is beyond what is right or wrong.
your description on love is beautiful...non-dramatic and very gentle..that's when i can notice the maturity in your writing...well done :)

Shweta said...

I am really sorry about your grandmother Vaishnavi. hugs from my side.

Hope the books help u mute the pain ..

Vaishnavi said...

@Kals - Thanks a lot! You definitely should try Montefiore, I am sure you will love her books :-)

@Avi - I don't know if this beautiful compliment is completely well deserved but thanks a bunch :-)

@Shweta - Thanks a lot Shweta, I really appreciate it :)

Pavi said...

I dint read the entire review. saving it to read it myself from the book cos you know how much i love readin her books:) I'm pretty sure she's written this also exceptionally well.. Could find it from half of your review itself:)Expectin this to be a really intense one:) lets see:) great writing vaish..You've definitely improved in your writing:)your posts stand as proofs for it:) keep writing!!

Vaishnavi said...

Pavi - Thanks :)