Clementine and Claudia by Piper Milton
I initially picked Clementine and Claudia because I thought it would be a lighthearted read, boy was I wrong. There are so many plot surprises that I cannot give a large account of the novel without spoilers. Clementine and Claudia is a story about two sisters who experience love, betrayal, and the way in different ways, struggling to make sense of senseless violence and the necessity to move forwards with life. This book played my heartstrings like a violin and it left me in anxiety. I have an awful confession to make. I normally hate peeking to the last page because it ruins the whole build up, but I had to, there was just so much tension, so much on the line that I had to look. I could predict from the first chapters what was going to happen, like watching a train crash in slow motion unable to change anything. So I looked, felt more resolved, and then proceeded to devour the rest of the book, declining afternoon plans in order to sit on the couch and continue reading. Suffice it to say, while I may have known the ending, the way it came about and the twists and turns in between were unpredictable. Even knowing the ending, how it came about was even more satisfying.
On to the book, it provoked anxiety and frustration in me. Anxiety over the lives and happiness of these characters, and frustration over their human foibles and mistakes. They frustrated me only in their depth and reality. It is a struggle to accept people, the mistakes they make, and the way they get caught up in their own whirlwind of chaos. These characters are no different, they make mistakes and cannot think clearly, but in a human way (not in an overly dramatic only for the story way). The story focuses mostly on Clementine, which left me very biased and more empathetic with her. There were moments with other’s perspectives which refreshed the perspective of Clementine and looked at her choices and relationships from different angles. Claudia’s perspective was smaller, and to be more balanced, there should have been more of Claudia. Their choices and hardships were different than ours today involving questions of mortality, society scandal, and differing cultural conditions. The advice of follow your heart is often too easily spread about and this novel focuses on the real consequences and challenges that advice can provoke.
This novel does not have a straightforward ending and all of the main characters are complex. Their challenges and mistakes are personal and there are always moments when you can sympathize with their struggles. The strength of this novel lies in its ability to portray the intricate nuances and complex dilemmas of heart and ethics in a realistic and human way. It is an enjoyable, albeit sometimes frustrating, picture of a life far away from home in a time when nothing was certain for people whose lives are far more complex than they seem.
Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review from Netgalley
Book Cover image from here.
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