Seized by Emma Tennant

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Seized by Emma Tennant

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Category: General Fiction
Rating: 3.5/5
Reviewer: John Lloyd
Reviewed by John Lloyd
Summary: A teenage girl in a foreign land is dropped into an uncomfortable scenario regarding the past – and the reader finds an awkwardly conveyed mystery that ultimately disappointed this reviewer.
Buy? Maybe Borrow? Yes
Pages: 168 Date: July 2008
Publisher: Maia Press Ltd
ISBN: 978-1904559313

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The teenaged orphan Alice is being shipped off to Corfu for the summer holidays, her guardian being otherwise engaged. And that's about all I can tell you about the plot. I might mention a bit of the past – Alice's parents, her mother especially, seem to have died in mysterious circumstances – but I shouldn't divulge more. I could mention a couple of factors about the present – she is now in a property accessible only by sea, with no mobile phone signal and the beginnings of a crush on a local lad already there – but I daren't say too much.

I can't let myself say as much about the plot as the giveaway blurb to this book, for sure, but I might hint that someone seems to disappear, many other people do mysteriously appear, and everything conspires to make Alice, however much company she might have, feel alone – the language barriers, the lack of funding and mobile signal, the terrain, the weather, and a strange sense of animosity towards her she feels.

The publishers are holding great store in their blurb that Emma Tennant is giving a great and realistic voice to the narrator of all these mysterious events I can't reveal. And there is a strong sense of voice – if you accept Alice is an intelligent young woman, albeit one who it seems has never heard of cicadas. It's just that her reportage is quite artistic and poetic, and she seems to go as far as she can in disguising the mysterious happening and feeling, so much so that one has to work through her words at times to make sure that what is going on has got through. As such it makes this slender volume a much slower read than it at first appears.

I think many an author – and certainly the average teenage girl – would flag up the odd and startling much more than herein. It's a style that conspired against me sitting back and thinking what the truth might be – I was still working on the truth as seen on the page and not beyond that to the reality. I found other flaws as well – there was no sense of the narrative building up to the events of the past it does hinge on, and the second half, where our near-penniless heroine gets to journey to and fro across the Adriatic seemed most odd.

Past Tennant books have been hits in this household, but I struggled to make this one work. The fan might have more success in finding the energy and pace in the voice that allows for a more fluent and compelling read to be found, but I failed. I still think people might consider it a missed opportunity – the set-up surely allows for something with a lot more clarity, eventfulness and narrative honesty than this book, without in any way losing its artistic qualities and becoming formulaic genre writing.

It also has all the hallmarks of an extended short story – making the volume somewhat less than perfect value for money. To the successful and more satisfied reader I still feel three and a half stars would be the height of what they would consider granting it. We duly give this volume the same – we can't dislike it for being too much a waste of time after all.

We would like to thank Maia Press for our review copy.

For another mystery set on Corfu we can recommend Songs Of Blue And Gold by Deborah Lawrenson. If the story of a teenage girl adrift in a situation she doesn't understand appeals the you might enjoy Love Falls by Esther Freud.

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Buy Seized by Emma Tennant at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Seized by Emma Tennant at


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