In Search Of A Happy Ending
Rosa Jordan | Propertius Press (Martinsville, Va., 2020)
$28.19 (US $18.95) | 258pp
Rosa Jordan’s new novel, In Search Of A Happy Ending, is based on a time-tested narrative device at least as old as The Canterbury Tales or The Decameron.
Like Chaucer and Boccaccio, Jordan begins with a group thrown together by circumstance and then tells stories associated with members of the group.
Although this approach also shapes many soap operas and Netflix series, no one should mistake this book for a mindless, merely entertaining beach read. While the author draws on models from both high and low culture, she has serious literary ambitions that she successfully achieves in this eloquent, tender and luminous book.
Unlike their classic precursors, Jordan’s characters are not religious pilgrims or Florentine nobility hiding from the plague. They are the members of a small study group of aspiring Vancouver authors, Hector, their curmudgeonly mentor and Golda, his fiercely protective wife.
The driving force in forming the group, Golda thinks that mentoring the younger writers will reinvigorate her aging husband, and the group members she recruits hope that working under the aptly named Hector will help them improve their prose and poetry and get published.
While Jordan’s prose style is straightforward and accessible, and the stories she tells are entertaining, the author is also conducting a sophisticated meditation here on the nature of narrative, and how we use stories to shape and understand our lives.
The old saw warns us against judging a book by its cover. In the case of In Search Of A Happy Ending, however, you can do just that.
The stunningly beautiful photo of a Vancouver cityscape, seen from the Kitsilano neighbourhood where much of the books action unfolds, is a gorgeous image that promises more beauty within; the novel more than fulfills that promise.
The action of the novel is advanced in part by the work the tyro authors share with their group, and one of the many virtues of this book is the way that Jordan has created samples of the poetry and prose that group members bring to the table at Hector and Golda’s. Each sample is distinctive and sheds light on the group member who has written it.
This is no mean feat. Ranging from hard-boiled crime fiction to tender love poetry and creating a half-dozen unique writing styles, these passages are impressive achievements, as is the novel in which they appear.
Tom Sandborn lives and writes in Vancouver. He is even more curmudgeonly these days than Hector. He welcomes your feedback and story tips at email@example.com
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