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And We’ll Become Silhouettes When Our Bodies Finally Go

Alix reviews Silhouette of a Sparrow by Molly Beth Griffin about a teenage girl trying to assert herself as a young woman in the 1920s.

And We’ll Become Silhouettes When Our Bodies Finally Go

BOOK REPORT for Silhouette of a Sparrow by Molly Beth Griffin

Cover Story: Exquisite
BFF Charm: Yay!
Swoonworthy Scale: 8
Talky Talk: Timeless
Bonus Factors: Diversity, Roaring Twenties, Dramatic Irony
Relationship Status: Love at first sight

Cover Story: Exquisite

So, when preparing for my move to Scotland, I had to stop asking for paper copies of review books because they would leave less room in my luggage for outfits. And then part of my soul actually died when I saw this cover and realized I’d have to get the digital review copy. This cover is GORGEOUS. It should be paraded around for ALL THE WORLD TO SEE. The fact that my new bookshelf is currently housing a small collection of Lurlene McDaniel paperbacks while this book is wasted on my kindle makes me want to weep a little bit.

The Deal:

In the summer of 1926, Garnet has been sent away to summer with her wealthy relatives, stodgy Mrs. Harrington and her snooty daughter Hannah. Garnet’s mother hopes they will be positive influences on her tomboyish daughter. Although Garnet has dutifully abandoned tromping through muddy fields for the more ladylike pursuits of sewing and embroidery, she is still far more interested in school and bird watching than filling her hope chest to prepare for marriage.

Upon arriving in Excelsior, Minnesota, Garnet is bored to tears by her constant schedule of sewing, wearing of uncomfortable outfits, and being proper with her insufferable relatives. Her only outlet is cutting out paper silhouettes of birds she observes, her favorite past-time. But everything changes when she convinces her aunt to let her take a summer job in a hat shop. With her newfound freedom, she soon finds herself doing things her aunt would most certainly disapprove of--sneaking off to the local amusement park, visiting the local dance hall, and keeping company with Isabella, the mysterious and beautiful runaway who lights up the stage there.

BFF Charm: Yay!

Garnet is a strong, intelligent, and very, very confused teenager. She definitely needs a modern-minded BFF like me to tell her that it’s great if she wants to go to college and have a career. Even though dropping out of school and becoming a child bride is ok for her mother or her friend Alice, that doesn’t mean it has to be ok for her too. And although birding is not my thing, Garnet’s enthusiasm and knowledge would win me over, and I’d get totally into it, too.

Swoonworthy Scale: 8

This book has some sexy times! Not too sexy, because it’s classy like that, but it is the twenties. Suffice it to say that some things go down off the page. But mostly, the swoon rating is so high because of the historical context. I spent the entire book agonizing over HOW these two characters could possibly stay together given their social classes and the expectations put on Garnet by her family. Nobody likes an easy romance, or we’d all be reading Pride and Prejudice thinking “enough with this Lizzy/Darcy nonsense. I want to hear more about Jane and Bingley!”

And oh yeah, did I mention that this is a lesbian romance? Nothing says forbidden like some same-sex lovin’ in a society that amends its constitution to prevent people from having fun.

Talky Talk: Timeless

I was a little concerned that this book would fall into the trap with much historical fiction of trying too hard to emulate the language of the time, but I need not have feared! Instead of filling the pages with twenties slang or overly-floral sentences, Griffin keeps it beautifully simple, creating a prose that is neither anachronistically modern nor cartoonishly dated.

Bonus Factor: Diversity

How much do I love that this is a swoony LGBTQ romance book? SO MUCH. I wish more people would not only write but also read books with romantic relationships that are not always heteronormative. It’s good to be reminded that love stories are universal, regardless of how easy it is to put yourself in a character’s shoes.

Bonus Factor: Roaring Twenties

It’s the age of dance halls, flappers, prohibition, and sweet haircuts that I could never pull off. I don’t know why the 1920s seem to be the new vampires, but I am LOVING it. It makes me want to tuck a flask in my stockings and head to a speakeasy.

Bonus Factor: Dramatic Irony

The other great thing about the setting is that reading the book today, I know that all these rich characters living large are going to be SUPER poor in three years time. Griffin conveys some subtle social commentary on race, gender, and class issues with the unstated implications that things will start to change very soon after this book takes place. It’s like watching Downton Abbey, where you know there’s a ticking time bomb in the form of a giant historical event just over the horizon, ready to fuck up the entire plot and keep Lady Mary from getting into Cousin Matthew’s pants.

Casting Call:

Saoirse Ronan as Garnet

Emma Watson as Isabella

Relationship Status: Love At First Sight

When I first saw this book, I wanted to like it so badly. The gorgeous cover, the promise of an LGBTQ love story set in the 1920s--it all sounded so great. So I was also terrified that it could in no way meet my high expectations. Luckily, this book more than lived up to it’s luring exterior, proving itself to be subtle and poignant and beautiful in ways I could not have imagined. Even though our relationship was initially founded on superficial attraction, it has since grown into a deep admiration and love.

FTC Full Disclosure: I received my review copy from Molly Beth Griffin. I received neither money nor cocktails for writing this review (dammit!). Silhouette of a Sparrow is available now.

Alix West's photo About the Author: After recently moving from Washington DC, Alix is an impoverished student in Scotland. When she is not out on the wild, windy moors, she dreams of warmer weather, Marcus Flutie, and days when she could still afford to buy champagne.
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