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Ardor by Lily Prior

Actually, Ardor: A novel of enchantment according to Prior’s website.

I might as well start off with the thing I’ve written over and over again in my notes: “The prose! Such lovely prose!” Prior’s language is ornate and light at once, her humour gently raucous. It carries an otherwise not-bad, interesting story and makes it an elegant ode to unrequited passion.

It starts, as stories sometimes do, when Francesca Ponderosa leaves her home, to find her sister’s and maybe reconcile with her. In Norcia, Arcadio Carnabuci is deep, unattractive and lonely. From a randomly helpful gypsy (someone had not read his fairy tales!), Arcadio (note that name!) buys magic seeds for love, and plants them. They grow, and in due course become proper plants and bring forth flowers and then fruit. All of them smell of love and lust, and everyone breathes in this air of love – but Francesca Ponderosa barely notices Arcadio, caught up in her own loves, and her own agenda. Instead, Arcadio has the heart of Gezebel, the gentle, observant, caring, helpful mule.

Yeah. She’s the narrator. Ardor is 200-odd pages of unrequited love narrated by a donkey. She’s very eloquent.

Ardor is a novel about unrequited love, about passion and lust. Love hangs in the air in the summer-heated months. And incidentally, just incidentally, magic is here, there and everywhere.

As the town falls more and more under the spell of Arcadio’s fruit, the people there move inevtiably forward, towards or away from each other. (One of the subplots involve a doctor and nurse who have loved each other for years without approaching each other. Their narrative thread is melancholic gold, gold I tell you!) Some of them love, more of them lust – and of course, some of them make war. The same impetus drives people to very different things, the same madness expresses itself in very different ways. There’s something very unworldly about this kind of created inner fire.

After a summer of sometimes literally operatic farce comes to its climax, well, life moves on.

This is a very sort review, for a very short book. It is lively and graceful, and does not hide from the distresses of love, and the beauties nonetheless. It reminds me, and market-wise probably actually is, of one of those surreally magical-realist novels that tend to hide murky sociopoliticing under their zany, otherwordly plots. I wouldn’t, myself, look any deeper for that here. There’s more than enough fevered layers to explore as it is.

Ardor is a sweetly short read, rude and funny and sad and lovely. If you find the time, and it’s around, you must read it.

Originally Posted at The Pearls Are Cooling


Camilla,  13.03.10 11:55

That sounds very odd and very attractive. And short, you say? That adds to its attraction for me these days: my brain believes that while reading is something I shouldn't be doing these days because there is so much else to do, one little short book can't hurt. It is irrational. But that is no surprise, I suppose. If I see it, I might pick it up.

Tor,  13.03.10 15:41

I like the sound of short at the moment. If Camilla picks it up, I might read it. Once I finish Ringdrotten.

Roh,  22.03.10 17:36

Ringdrotten? It sounds kinky.

Camilla,  22.03.10 18:26

It is the Lord of the Rings in a variation of Norwegian.