Monday, February 21, 2011

Queens of All the Earth by Hannah Sternberg

Warning: May contain spoilers!
As her freshman classmates move into dorms at Cornell University, Olivia Somerset suffers a nervous breakdown. When months of coaxing and analyzing fail to rouse Olivia from her stupor, big sister Miranda decides the sisters should fly off to Barcelona for some "vacation therapy." 
When a mistake at their Barcelona hostel leaves the Somersets in a large co-ed dorm room, Olivia and Miranda are saved by kindly Mr. Brown and his son Greg, who happily volunteer to surrender their private room. But while Olivia feels an instant connection with brooding Greg Brown, Miranda sides with fellow guest and cocky American travel writer Lenny: 
The Browns are just plain weird, and must be avoided at all costs.
In the midst of urbane Peruvian priests-in-training and Scottish soccer fans, from the shops of La Rambla to the waters of the Mediterranean to the soaring heights of Montjuic, Miranda works to protect her still-fragile sister while Olivia struggles to understand her burgeoning adulthood, her feelings for Greg, and the fear that makes the next step in her life so impossible to take. 
Inspired by E. M. Forster's classic novel A Room with a View, debut author Hannah Sternberg's Queens of All the Earth is a poetic journey of young love and self-awakening set against the beauty of Catalonia. Teenagers and adults alike will be riveted and moved by this coming-of-age novel about the conflicting hearts and minds of two very different sisters.

The very first thing that I noticed about this book was the exquisite description that flows throughout it. Though I have never been to Spain, the descriptions, especially those in the first chapter, made me feel as though I was with Olivia on the bus, watching the scenery flash by the window, so fast I could barely see it. To get down to the real review, I loved this book, plain and simple.

It wasn't a particularly hard book to read, but something about it really just drew me in. I really think it was the fact that the book was so simple and pure. The love between the sisters and the blooming love between Marc and Miranda and Olivia and Greg was so well-written that it completely surrounded me and brought me into their world. It was a truly innocent book, and it had a feeling to it of that childhood love and sweetness, reflecting Olivia's transition over that week for being in the mind set of a child to that of an adult.

Olivia herself was very distant at first, but as the novel progressed and she really came out of that stupor and into herself again I felt almost a connection with her, the girl that loved to be in her own little world, as so many of us do. Miranda, however, felt stuffy and uptight, and after she fell in with Lenny I had no sympathy for her whatsoever. Like Olivia, though, by the end of the book I felt an almost connection to Miranda, and overall I really loved the characters in this book.

Though the ending was a bit bittersweet, the book left me with a warm feeling inside that I'm sure won't go away for a while. I would recommend this book to women (and men) who like books about the idea of overcoming obstacles, or to anyone who would like a truly great read. I would give this book 4 out of 5 stars.

Until next time,

Athena xoxo

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