Saturday, July 28, 2012

Encounters in Paris (Carolyn Moncel)

Overall: 3.7
  • Plot: 3.5/5
  • Originality: 4/5
  • Language: 2.9/5
  • Believability: 4.2/5
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Encounters in Paris explores a few key moments in the life of Ellery Roulet. Set in Paris, the woman's life is turned topsy-turvy as a result of two letters. The rest of the stories cover the ripples caused by those initial two events, exploring Ellery's emotional state and focusing on the decisions that she makes.

Described as a book of short stories, Encounters is more like a series of vignettes. What makes these scenes works is the author's ability to evoke emotion and create an ambiance with these short interludes; despite the limited amount of information given, I felt like I knew exactly what was going on, and I was connected to Ellery in those moments. There is something easily accessible about the experiences that are relayed; the setting of Paris is more incidental than anything else. With a few particulars altered, these stories may just as well have taken place elsewhere.

Perhaps what is most remarkable about this work is its ability to pull you into each story. In a matter of two or three paragraphs, one is drawn into Ellery's life just as surely as one would tumble into the world of a much longer tale. What is implied is as important, if not more so, as that which is stated outright. It's an effective reflection of a world in which most of our communication is nonverbal, and a single action can convey a mountain of words. Ellery's actions certainly speak volumes about her development as a character.

The book itself is only about twenty-seven pages long. I would have liked to have seen more scenes, as the everyday does as much to establish a character as do major life events. Additionally, the style took some getting used to. The sentences were a little overdone in terms of their content—that is, too much information was crammed in, and not necessarily in a logical manner. The attempts at lyricism felt forced, and the story flowed best when the author wasn't trying quite so hard.

Given the length of this work, there is only so much that I can say. It is a quick read, and the snapshots are easy to fit into a short wait at the doctor's office or the spin cycle on your washing machine. I managed to complete it in the course of a single lunch break. For those who want something that is easy to put down and to pick back up, this just may be the right fit for you.

(Review copy provided by the author)

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