Friday 18 May 2018

Syncopation: A Novel of Adèle Hugo by Elizabeth Caulfield Felt

Family Drama
19th century
France, Nova Scotia, Barbados

Syncopation according to Webster: (music) to shift the regular accent (in a composition) to a normally unaccented beat.

Adèle is born into a perfect family: beautiful mother, two handsome brothers, a sister who is the epitome of a generous spirit and of course a famous father. For the first few chapters, we watch Adèle growing and interacting with her family until the unthinkable happens: the tragic death of a beloved member of the family. A half-beat has been missed; the harmony has been interrupted and can never be the same again.

Adèle emerges from the tragedy with a determination never to marry and to live life as she chooses. She comes to resent her domineering father, and she does not respect her mother’s imperatives. No longer is she the darling of the perfect family. While being treated as a pariah by her family, she enjoys a delicious and illicit sex life. Eventually, she escapes the clutches of convention by following a lover to Canada.

Adèle is the kind of spunky, liberated woman we admire so much in our heroines. No matter how desperate her circumstances become, she refuses to live the kind of life her family and society try to impose on her. Yet the author doesn’t attempt to hide her warts. As for Victor Hugo, I expected a more progressive man but he is as rigid in his views about women as his daughter is non-conforming.

This is an engrossing story, flawlessly told and with characters that come to life and fill our imaginations to the brim. 

© Susan Appleyard

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