Odette by Jessica Duchen ** Blog Tour Review and Extract**

As we near Christmas, I thought you might like to discover this 21st Century Fairy Tale based on Swan Lake: Odette by Jessica Duchen. Before I tell you what I think, here's a little about the story and an extract so you can get a taster of the book:
 

When a swan crashes through her window at the height of a winter storm, Mitzi Fairweather decides to nurse the injured bird back to health. At sunset, though, it becomes a human being. 


This unexpected visitor is Odette, the swan princess – alone, in danger and adrift in 21st-century Britain, dependent on the kindness of strangers. Bird by day, woman by night, with no way to go home to Russia, she remains convinced that only a man’s vow of eternal love can break her spell. 


Mitzi is determined to help Odette, but as the two try to hide the improbable truth, their web of deception grows increasingly tangled… 


A contemporary twist on Swan Lake, Odette asks – in the best tradition of fairy tales – whether against all the odds, hope, empathy and humanity can win the day.



A narrated concert based on ODETTE is in the planning stages with the award-winning violinist Fenella Humphreys. pianist Viv McLean and Jessica as narrator. Music will include a celebration of Tchaikovsky’s magical score for Swan Lake, plus works by Chopin, Liszt and Gershwin. The first performances will be at Music at Mansfield Street, London W1, 17 April 2019 and St Mary’s, Perivale, 27 April 2019. 

Extract


OVERTURE

The swan was high above the coast when the storm broke. Soon after sunrise she had flown up from the lake, skimming the tips of the birches that sheltered her nest. Balancing on currents of air, she swooped over the island’s rocky shore, then left it far behind. Nature was her homeland, the embrace of light and the open joy of the heavens.
The gusts were blowing more fiercely around her and the swan sensed their threat, but when she tried to turn back the wind was against her. Swelling banks of cloud blotted out the breaking day. Raindrops pelted her eyes and the gale seized her and tossed her left and right, until she was too numb and frightened to know where she was or which way she was going. She mustered her strength, set her wings and focused on riding the currents, telling herself that soon she must and would land.
Flailing, tired out, after how long she had no idea, the swan was still over water – but it was endless water, rough and wild, and she could smell the salt in it as she dodged a wave that rose into the sky, then hammered down, voracious, around her. She dared not guess the extent of this ocean. Her wings weighed like gravestones on her shoulders. Dreading that night would fall before she reached sanctuary, she spurred herself on. She tried to harness the storm’s violent momentum, letting it carry her. If she could not land by sundown, she knew she would die.
At last, a curving coastline: low cliffs, agricultural fields, then haphazard villages and towns – tame and crowded compared to her home – all of them silvery with rainwater. She was too exhausted to fight the force that was driving her down among the buildings: narrow lanes, steeples, towers of carved stone and, in the middle, a river, studded with tidy bridges. Fighting on, she aimed for the water. She lost altitude and tried to land, but still the wind would not release her.
The swan fixed on a final hope. By the river ran a street, lined on the other side with a terrace of houses. Her gaze lighted upon an upper window partly sheltered by a chestnut tree. The branches might break the gale and let her gain control. She turned towards it, stretched her neck forward, poised to strike, wings locked back – and dived. Her beak met glass and shattered it with a crash. Pain sliced across her shoulder as the sharp edges cut. A surface thudded up under her belly; lying still at last, she lost consciousness.
For a longer synopsis and an extract from the book please visit: https://unbound.com/books/odette/
 My Thoughts
Just right for this time of year, Odette has a magical feel to the story. It is fascinating to meet Odette, the Swan Princess, under an enchantment as she goes out into Cygnford and encounters 21st century Britain. There is some humour as she tries to make sense of modern living and even more in the reactions of Mitzi's slightly over the top, actor brother, Harry. 

    The story of Swan Lake is typical of other fairy tales in that it centres on a young, defenceless girl who seems to be at the mercy of the world and waiting to be rescued by a would-be lover.  I found some parallels between Mitzi and Odette. It is interesting to ponder whether innocence and naivety can be viewed as a strength or a weakness. I found the story to be a captivating read as malice and deception was pitted against innocence. It is a well-paced tale, full of variety and with a fluent style of writing. 
In short:  Will the innocent be crushed or will her humanity prevail?
About the Author
Jessica Duchen is an acclaimed author and journalist, specialising in words for, with and about music. Her work has appeared in The Independent, The Guardian and The Sunday Times, plus numerous magazines around the world. Her first five novels have gathered a loyal fan-base and wide acclaim. Music plays a vital role in her books, and she frequently narrates concert versions of Alicia’s Gift, Hungarian Dances and Ghost Variations.


Jessica is the librettist for the opera Silver Birch by Roxanna Panufnik, commissioned by Garsington Opera and shortlisted for a 2018 International Opera Award. Current projects include the libretto for a youth opera with composer Paul Fincham for Garsington 2019 (an updating of an Oscar Wilde fairy tale) and two large-scale choral works with Roxanna Panufnik.

She was born within the sound of Bow Bells, studied music at Cambridge and held editorial posts on several music magazines before going freelance to concentrate on writing. She edited a piano magazine for five years and was then classical music and ballet correspondent for The Independent from 2004-2016. Her output also includes plays, poetry, biographies of the composers Erich Wolfgang Korngold and Gabriel Fauré (published by Phaidon) and her popular classical music blog, JDCMB. She lives in London with her violinist husband and two cats. She enjoys playing the piano, cookery, long walks and obscure books about music.
You can follow Jessica here: Website | Twitter | Facebook    Blog
Book links: Unbound  | Amazon UK Paperback 

Thanks to Jessica, Unbound and Anne Cater of Random Things Tours  for a copy of the book, the extract and a place on the tour.
 Check out the rest of the tour!
 

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