The morning gift by Eva Ibbotson
Reviewed by Ruya
If you've read other Young Adult historical chick lit by Eva Ibbotson, you'll know to expect a story full of passion and excellent characters. It takes place in the early World War II era, about a young woman named Ruth Berger who was born in Vienna and raised by a Jewish-Austrian professor. Her family makes plans to escape to England before they are captured, but the plan goes wrong, and Ruth is left behind. To join her family, Ruth marries a young English professor, Quin Somerville, so she might become an English citizen. He promises that the marriage will be quickly dissolved, but this is more difficult than they first assume, and soon, Ruth is torn between her pianist boyfriend, Heini, and her charming, intelligent professor, with whom she shares a powerful attraction.
The character of Ruth is probably my favorite part of the book. She's very easy to love, because of her intense curiosity, her determination to find beauty in all things, and how she so often says quirky things like “I swear on Mozart's head!” She's very similar to Ibbotson's other heroines, in her love of books and her innocence, but at the same time, she is unique in her situation. But just as Ruth is easy to love, the character of Verena is easy to hate. Verena is the clear antagonist, someone who comes between Ruth and Quin, and someone who hates the same traits in Ruth that the audience is brought to love. Her sheer evil is something which I love about Ibbotson's antagonists, though, because you can't feel guilty about hating a fictional character. Quin is also a character I love in this book, because he's so sweet, and even his ignorance, while irritating, is rather enjoyable, but I don't think we get enough insight into his personality, and it would be nice if his relationship with Ruth was more developed.
All in all, the story is just the type of fluff which is nice to read on an airplane or on a rainy day. It's very enjoyable, and parts, like that about Mozart, are even true to history, but it's not realistic in the least. But don't let the slow parts put you off, because I swear on Mozart's head that you're in for a great overall story.
Eva Ibbotson was herself born in Vienna, and her family emigrated to England in the 30's. Her original name was Maria Charlotte Michelle Wiesner. An interview
Ibbotson is the author of both children's books and light romances. In addition to The Morning Gift, the latter include:
A Countess below Stairs
A Glove Shop in Vienna and Other Stories
A Company of Swans (We have this one.)
A Song for Summer
As for her children's books, try:
Journey to the River Sea and
The Secret of Platform 13 .
She wrote many others, but those are particularly noteworthy. (We have both.)