Illyria: a review

by Elizabeth Hand

Opening line: “Rogan and I were cousins; our fathers were identical twins.”

Growing up in the sprawling Tierney clan, Rogan and Maddy are unusually close. Not only are their fathers identical twins, they themselves were born on the same day. And in all of the respectable stockbrokers and businessmen, it’s Rogan and Maddy who hanker after their family’s illicit theatrical past.

Hand’s prose is gorgeous–understated and lovely. The story and characters are haunting and beautiful. And yet, I always felt as if I was just one step too removed. There are books where this distance works–Ursula LeGuin springs to mind–but here somehow I felt just a little too far away to care. I read it and appreciated it and put it away without feeling touched.

Now this might very well be my problem–for a different reader, it might resonate in huge emotional ways. And as I said, the prose is gorgeous. I would be interested to hear what teens think of it–I could see a pretty strong reaction either way, depending on the teen.

The cover is absolutely gorgeous, and really captures the mood of the story. I liked the clever method of obscuring their faces–so much better than the normal cropping the head off technique!

There’s been some buzz or controversy or something surrounding the fact that Rogan and Maddy are cousins who fall in love. For me it was mostly a non-issue–I’m used to Austen’s England, after all. But I did think that it was an interesting way to combine two of the Big Topics in YA. We write about family and we write about falling in love, but not about what happens when the two intersect.

Book source: public library
Book information: Viking, 2010; YA (I’d say this is definitely YA, both content and style-wise)

A few other reviews of Illyria:
Challenging the Bookworm
A Chair, A Fireplace, and A Tea Cozy



Filed under bookish posts, reviews

2 responses to “Illyria: a review

  1. Joy

    This sparks my interest, admittedly, mostly because of the cover. But cousins who fall in love is a very daring subject matter…so I’ll probably pick it up eventually. Thanks for the review.

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