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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, April 24, 2009

The Last Waltz by G.G. Vandegriff

I must admit that when I first received my copy of The Last Waltz by G.G. Vandagriff I was a little intimidated by it. It is a rather thick tome (591 pages) and I’d just finished reading a long list of Whitney finalists that I hadn’t gotten to read throughout the year. I wasn’t quite sure if I could get through The Last Waltz and give it a fair critique when I was brain fried and somewhat tired of serious reading. I am happy to report, however, that this was not the case. Within just a few chapters I was in love with this book and found it a delight to keep reading rather than the drudgery I was worried about.

At first, the writing seemed rather, well, flowery to me—full of poetic descriptions. But I soon figured out that this was the author’s way of expressing the great passion she has for Austria. G.G. studied in Austria as a young woman and that’s what sparked her interest in writing this particular book. She wanted to make sure it felt like a beautiful and real place to the reader because it mattered so much to her and to the main character, Amalia.

The overall writing and story was very good. I did find it weird that all of the love interests in the book seemed to be victims of horrible childhoods. Not just unpleasant. Down right nasty. Ah, such is the poetic license of a writer. We get to do all kinds of nasty things to our characters.

I found a few editorial slips (which I never count against a book because it happens to all of us) and one character dropped out of the story without me ever reading what actually happened to him. At least, I’m pretty sure I didn’t read anything that tied up his loose end. He wasn’t a main character exactly, but he was important to Amalia.

I think this happened partly because The Last Waltz covers a much greater time span than most books would normally address. The story line covers a period from World War I and the beginning of World War II. That’s a lot of history, but it never really bogs down the actual story. The Last Waltz could have easily been a series, but I would have hated waiting for the next installment to be able to continue Amalia’s saga.

As it is, The Last Waltz is divided into sections by the years the story took place in. I’m not really good at perceiving these time changes on my own so it always took me a couple of paragraphs to catch up and figure out exactly how much time had past. There is quite a large span not covered and I’m guessing that’s where the poor character I lost kind of fell through the cracks. It’s too bad because I was kind of worried about him. :)

Though this book did take me several days to get through, it did follow me while I was unable to read. There was always an eager compulsion to make sure I carved out reading opportunities throughout the day. That’s the kind of book I love. I like books that keep you engaged even when you have to walk away.

The Last Waltz was a satisfying read and one I’d recommend for a leisurely spring break when the world is full of hope and newness.

G.G. also has an article in Meridian Magazine this week which talks about learning from Austria’s history as we try to shape the future of America.

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