Barbara Trapido, “Temples of Delight”

It’s kind of a bold title for a book, don’t you think? If you call your novel Temples of Delight, you are either being harshly sardonic or you’d better deliver. Fortunately with Barbara Trapido doing the writing, delight is indeed forthcoming. Along with some confusion, I  have to admit.

An 1815 set for "The Magic Flute," by Karl Friedrich Schinkel

An 1815 set for “The Magic Flute,” by Karl Friedrich Schinkel

As we know, the border between the literal and the fantastic isn’t a very comfy place for me. The same is true of earnest, hardworking young Alice Pilling, who when we meet her is a third form student in a mediocre girls’ school. Into the school, and Alice’s life, erupts Jem McCrail, a brilliant and iconoclastic life force, even if she is only thirteen. Trapido lays out her premise in the first sentence: “Jem was a joyful mystery to Alice.” And even though Jem disappears from school after a few months, her influence shapes Alice’s response to life for years thereafter. I can only give you the barest bones of the plot because it’s quite rambunctious, for a story about a clever girl’s coming of age. There are deaths and births, seductions and betrayals, three suitors for Alice… oh, golly. Do I see an allegory appearing? Does it mean something that Alice’s first boyfriend is named Roland? Or that Mozart’s The Magic Flute keeps shuffling in and out of the narrative? Of course it does.

And what, exactly, is Trapido driving at, with an infant named Pamina and a devilish-looking love interest named Angeletti, and nuns everywhere? I didn’t even try to sort it all out. For me, Trapido’s strong suit is charm, and Temples of Delight provided several hours of delicious reading.

About carolwallace

I spend most of my time writing and reading. Most recent publications: the reissue of "To Marry an English Lord,"one of the inspirations for "Downton Abbey," and the historical novel "Leaving Van Gogh." I am too cranky to belong to a book group but I love the book-blogging community.
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3 Responses to Barbara Trapido, “Temples of Delight”

  1. Alex says:

    It s ages since I read any if Barbara Trapido’s work and you’ve just reminded me how much I enjoyed it. I really shouldn’t even be thinking about re-reading with a pile of new books to get round to but I love her world so much I think I might just have to give way and go back to her.

    • carolwallace says:

      That’s it! Barbara Trapido’s world! Sort of like real life, but more glamorous and more lively. Listen, Alex: where reading is concerned, I think you should always feel free to scratch the itch. You’ll get to the TBR pile eventually.

  2. Pingback: Barbara Trapido, “Sex and Stravinsky” | Book Group of One

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