I mentioned on Friday Jessica Bell's debut work of literary fiction String Bridge. It's her first novel, but Jessica isn't new to the world of artistic creation. Coming from a family of musicians, she has forged her own status as songwriter and vocalist. An album of original songs was written and recorded to go along with the book. That's quite an accomplishment. I've known and conversed with Jessica via the internet for somewhat of a year now, and in that time I have been witness to all these things unfolding. The book, and its being picked up for publishing. The pains of trimming and editing. Rewrites. Excitement of the book's cover, and the possibility of a cd. All of this, while still making time for other bloggers, and their books, and their processes. She's quite amazing.
From what I remember the early drafts of String Bridge were intended for the young adult market. It was decided to go more literary, and I can see why as Jessica's writing is so descriptive, so full of emotion and raw intimacy with no holds barred that it does seem much better suited for an adult market. Or perhaps it's the subject matter that seems to fit her writing and not just her ability to handle genre.
The book begins with thirty-year-old Melody Hill, a mother and wife. Living in beautiful Greece should make things perfect, but things are far from that as Melody can't get her former existence off her mind. She used to sing on stage. She used to be somebody. She longs for that life again, of holding a guitar and singing one's soul, of being adored. It's much different than being stuck at home with hardly a thank you to make up for the redundancy of motherhood. Add to that a feeling her dreams are being denied, on purpose, by the one person who is supposed to love her more than anyone else. She wants to leave Greece and work again, and sing again. Women always follow their men, but if he loves her, he'll follow where she wants to go. Is asking a sin? If she doesn't, will it ruin them anyway?
It's an intense story. In this age where society has moved far past the ides of feminism, Jessica Bell has issued a request. She takes every question and places it in the path of the norm . . . and then watches it explode. She takes all the 'what ifs' women have been asking through the decades, and works her way through. For character Melody Hill, it's a raw process. Her pursuit of a better life is hard-earned. Things go terribly wrong, but that's where the real conflict lies. It's interesting to see if Melody can survive the mess she made by asking questions. It's good, because many women never ask.
At times I found the subject matter of String Bridge too close for comfort. As I write this, I am five minutes away from getting my daughter up for school. Then her brother will wake up. Who knows when I will have a moment to write again today? If I steal time from wiping faces and cleaning dishes, just to write, things will get chaotic. I know the longing, and the questions being asked. So it was interesting to read, but at times, painful, and too real.
I loved the parallel themes in String Bridge. The symbolism of a family: mother/father/daughter, and to mirror that: Melody's parents and she as the child. Her father is the opposite of the husband, he's comforting and supportive. The mother is harsh and selfish, traits Melody struggles with in the wish to keep her daughter Tessa from experiencing a childhood such as hers.
More themes: the music and beauty of Greece. Jessica's words so often ran like music, flowing and lifting, crashing down like waves. She has a lovely writing style, and as for content--she went there, she really went there. All of these themes were held together similar to the way a guitar holds its strings: each one separate, yet together, permanent and unable to function without proximity.
I've always enjoyed the occasional Chicklit, and I guess you could call String Bridge Femlit, but that seems sort of derogatory. It's lit, it's personal. It doesn't try to be funny or charming. It's a real story about someone who isn't trying to deny herself or those around her. What do you call that? It's hard to place a genre on truth.
It was a beautiful read. Thank you Jessica for letting me review String Bridge. Best wishes with its success!
If you are want to find out more about Jessica Bell, her life and works, you can visit her blog at: http://www.thealliterativeallomorph.blogspot.com/
or go to her website at: http://www.jessicacbell.com/
Thanks for reading.