Today is a debut offering from independent, self-published author Caroline Burkhard.
This is the story of 5 schoolmates at a boarding school in France: beginning during the German Occupation of France, we are introduced to the girls in a fairly loose-form: their interior monologues are the storyline. Divided into three parts, early start of term, Christmas break and after the holiday, these 5 young women are confused and tentative in their thoughts and actions, making connections and finding a solid thread for the plot difficult.
I don’t quite know why this story didn’t grab me, Caroline Burkhard has a free-flowing, near conversational style and each character did manage to have a distinct voice despite the similarity in both scenery and attitude. And perhaps that is where I found the story to be more difficult and hard to follow than one would expect. None of the characters stood apart or remarkably above the others, there didn’t seem to be a focal point or even a communal thread to tie them together beyond the circumstance of being in the same class.
With continual head hopping, and little real action or even an intention for action, the girls seemed to blend together in one large vat of existential crisis without purpose. It doesn’t even seem to display any connections of real friendship with the girls either, each discussion of friendship seems loaded with disdain, agenda and even outright humiliation. They were not, as one so aptly described “schizophrenic rainbows” as much as a group of self-involved and utterly selfish young women all grasping for adulthood that his littered with film scenes, daydreams and half-adopted cynicism.
While most of the characters were, to me, interchangeable, Persephone was by far the most attainable and sympathetic character of them all, and were it her story with interjections and interactions with the other girls, it would have worked better for me. She held her own, researching diligently and read on subjects that don’t interest her so there would be a ready source of intelligent questions she could ask in conversation: part to hide her shyness caused by low self-esteem, partly as a flirting technique. Her thoughts on boys, and her constant flitting in and out of conversations and reality were interesting to watch, and her reactions in her own narration seemed logical and realistic, if often harsh.
Other conversations felt stilted and rough, the girls often seemed to relate to one another in half-hearted shorthand, with varying degrees of anger, condescension and cynicism coloring their remarks and behavior. What appears is the toxicity that is so often apparent in female to female relationships and interactions, everyone looking for a step up and away from the crowd, gaining it by demeaning and disparagement of others rather than improving themselves and having something to offer.
As I said, Burkhard has a conversational writing style that just seemed to be lacking on focus for a concise and defined story arc. Too many ‘characters’ with half-formed traits and a lack of likability for many made this a book that just didn’t work for me. It wasn’t a horrible book, but it didn’t demand to be read, or call to me when I would put it down. It was too muddled and too many ideas were introduced yet not brought to fruition, although Persephone had more of the total picture of a young life in transition in this story. My rating of 3 stars is rounded up for the quality of the angst that the author created and displayed, particularly in Persephone’s development and narration.
I received an eBook from the author for purpose of honest review. I was not compensated for this review: all conclusions are my own responsibility.
Title: Schizophrenic Rainbows
Author: Caroline Burkhard
Publisher: Some and Some
Genre: Woman’s Fiction/ YA / Coming of Age
Purchase Now: Amazon
About the Book:
Set in the South of France over the academic year of 1942 to 1943, Persephone, Amelia, Lucy and Suzanne are best friends, and attend a boarding school. Charlotte is new, and trying to fit in. This year is the year they will graduate. The world is changing daily around them but in the self-obsessed nature of high school, war falls into the backdrop and lives revolve around identity, friendships, boys, family, death, love, hate and religion.
As the year progresses, their adolescences are related more and more introspectively, peeling away the layers of appearance versus reality. Obstacles appear in front of them such as the death of a parent, betrayal of friends, and the depression filled angst of growing up.
About the Author:
I am a French writer in my twenties. I worked as an anthropologist for 4 years, specialising in Identity, before beginning to turn my research into books. I just finished Schizophrenic Rainbows, which is based on interviews I carried out with women who were in their early 20s during the Second World War, and intermingled with my own memories of high-school only a decade (or so) ago. This is my first novel.