Sunday, 17 November 2013
Transcend by Christine Fonseca
Published by: Compass Press
Historical fiction for young adults
The Publisher's Synopsis
All seventeen-year-old composer Ien Montgomery desires is an escape from his family's rigid expectations for his life; someone to inspire his music. When he meets a beautiful violin-prodigy, Kiera McDougal, his life music takes on new life. With her, he imagines a future outside of his parents’ control. That is, until a horrible accident tears them apart.
Sent to die in a sanatorium, Ien’s obsession for Kiera grows unbearable. Tortured by thoughts he can’t escape and the truth of his monstrous disfigurement, he flees, desperate to exact revenge on the people that ruined his life – his parents. But, vengeance is empty. Betrayed by those closest to him, Ien discovers that the price for his happiness may be his sanity.
Set amidst the landscape of New York's Gilded Age, and inspired by Phantom of the Opera, TRANSCEND exposes the fine line between love and madness.
Each chapter of Transcend cleverly begins with an apt quote, often taken from characters in well-known literary works or from well-known writers. They set the scene for what is to come.
Phantom of the Opera is not a story I know well. I had an idea - I know the main character has a facial disfigurement and lives in the shadows. I gather there is a tragic love story, as he falls for a beautiful Prima Donna that he can never be with. I am not sure how close this story is to the original, but as a young-adult novel it makes a refreshing read because it is so atypical.
Set in the late 19th century, Ien is the son a of wealthy couple who are at the centre of New York's elite. 'Mother' (as she is referred to throughout the book) is dominating and over-powering and he feels stifled by her restrictive rules. Mother is very much in control of Ien's life and he is under increasing pressure to live up to both his parents' expectations. He wants to pursue his music and they (Mother in particular) have no intention of allowing this.
Meeting Kiera offers him a means of escape. Mother is completely against the match (naturally) and forbids him from seeing her. This pushes Ien over the edge and he hatches a plan - if he proposes, she says yes and they elope, they can be together and he can escape his awful parents. The plan goes horribly wrong when Ien becomes the victim of an accident that destroys his facial features, leaving him disfigured.
His circumstances were believable; given the period and the setting, I can very much imagine that his parents could have acted the way they did. (When after many months there is no improvement to his face, they are so embarrassed by him that they fake his death and send him off to a sanatorium.) Knowing his parents discarded him as if he were nothing and losing the girl he loves leaves Ien tormented. He also believes that Mother wants the nuns to put him to death (a mercy killing), which terrifies him. He starts to have nightmares and hears the voice of his dead brother, who constantly goads and torments him. This brings back memories of his brother's death. The circumstances of that death leaves Ien riddled with guilt. All of this is quite an endurance and Ien's sanity begins to slip away from him.
I found Transcend an endurance to read. On the one hand I thought this was a good way to put the reader in Ien's shoes and the author deserves merit for this. BUT, on the other hand, reading it was not a pleasant experience. If I am honest, I did not enjoy this book for that reason. I also found it overly sentimental; like reading melodrama. (I could practically hear the violins in the background.)
Other than that, Transcend is quite well-written and I realise I am virtually alone in my opinion of it being an unpleasant read, which is why I have decided to showcase it on my blog.