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I'm a writer and library worker who wears many hats. I believe a good book and a good piece of chocolate are the keys to a happy life.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Ariana Trilogy by Rachel Ann Nunes

Rachel Ann Nunes recently re-released her extremely popular Ariana series, including the titles:

Ariana: The Making of a Queen

Ariana: A Gift Most Precious


Ariana: A New Beginning

Under the single title- Ariana: The Trilogy. Hurray!

Rachel Nunes is one of the LDS publishing world’s biggest names and I marvel at how prolific she is. The Ariana books were first published in 1996, they are among her most popular and some titles have been unavailable of late. That’s why it’s so exciting to see them in a new format (it doesn’t hurt that getting three books in one is cheaper than getting three separate books either).

The Trilogy follows the life of Ariana de Cotte over a many years, beginning with her wedding night at the age of nineteen. This is not an “everything’s happy and fine” story. Ariana is not LDS and does not want to listen to the hope of the gospel because her life is so far from wonderful. Of course, she does eventually listen, but it doesn’t come until after the loss of her infant daughter at the hands of her drug-addicted husband. You get to watch Ariana rise from a life that is far beyond the challenges many of us will face and find hope in the gospel. That hope is what permeates all three of the Ariana stories.

Ariana’s life does not suddenly become easy after finding the gospel. In fact, she faces a new challenge in book two that brings back the question of what it really means to be forgiven and the struggles that can still come from a past you thought was far behind you. This story deals with AIDS, loss, and grieving all over again.

The third installment deals continues the theme of a haunting past that will not let go, while dealing with the difficulties of financial strain and the challenges of raising safe, happy children. Again, love and a firm testimony will make all the difference in how the story turns out.

As you can see, Rachel Ann Nunes is not one to tip-toe around hard subjects, but she is also firmly planted in the gospel. No matter what trials her characters face, she always brings them back around to using the tools we all have- those standard answers your Sunday school teacher is always looking for- to bring about the miracles and changes of heart both the heroine and the reader need to make it through the story.

Another very fun part of the Ariana stories is that they do not take place in Utah, nor even in the United States. Ariana lives in Paris. How fun is that! I’m an armchair traveler, since my budget and family will not let it be otherwise, and I loved the little descriptions of life in Paris. Very refreshing in a genre that is permeated with BYU love stories (not that there is anything wrong with those if they’re done well, it’s just fun to have authors recognize we really are a world wide church).

If you have the original Ariana books and have wondered if you should up grade, here is something to consider. I asked Rachel what the differences were between the two sets and this was her reply.

“The Ariana [books] would be pretty much the same, minus any typos or grammar errors! The only major change is the Jean-Marc meets Ariana at the END of his mission instead of the beginning and then he serves time in the French army while she serves her mission. In the old version, he served in the army first and met Ariana at the first of his mission so they basically finish their missions near the same time (she did saw him one last time after her mission while he was still a missionary). Mission rules now say that missionaries shouldn't write to each other, [my publisher] didn't want my characters breaking that rule. Thus the change. I think it worked out better in the end. Everything is exactly the same.”

There is also one more Ariana book, not included in the trilogy, Ariana: A Glimpse of Eternity. If you haven’t had a chance to explore the world of Ariana, give it a shot. While I would recommend reading the titles in order if you are using the old versions, it’s not completely necessary. Ariana’s story continues through each book but you can pick it up anywhere. If you are facing a particular challenge, perhaps try picking up that title first then work your way around as you grow to love and relate to Ariana. They’re all quick reads with solid gospel messages. You can’t go wrong with those two qualities.

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Tristi Pinkston said...

These books are definitely ones I would consider LDS young adult classics.