"A Song For Summer" - Eva Ibbotson -

I read a copy featuring the cover above, but I really like the one below.

Well, I did it.  I carried our current WWII movie phase over into my reading.  Eva Ibbotson's name appears on my list of recommended authors I've never read before; and this book takes place throughout Europe but primarily in Austria just before it falls to Hitler - fits in perfectly, doesn’t it?  Yes, I admit that while reading the dust jacket I did picture nuns who steal from Nazi vehicles and a family crossing the Alps on foot…  No, it’s not “The Sound of Music” but I’m going to keep the comparisons coming.  Instead of “A Captain with seven children” there are many more, the students of wealthy parents abandoned at a bohemian (in the modern sense of the word) school for the arts.  Instead of Maria we have Ellen, the daughter and niece of militant suffragists who grew up with a desire to emulate and learn from their traditional Austrian cook and never chained herself to anything or got arrested.  Her family does support her even though her ideals of womanhood conform to everything they’ve fought against.  Ellen travels to the school Hallendorf in Austria and quickly becomes its’ heart and soul.  Students and staff both depend on her as she cooks and comforts while bridging the distance between the school and the nearby village.  She also loses her heart in the process to a man who makes music and saves tortoises.

I thought maybe this would turn out to be one of those books I start but never finish, (books that never make it to this blog) I fell asleep every 3 pages or so, and even re-read highlights of Lisa Kleypas’s “Dreaming of You” instead of just finishing this book.   Luckily I was so impressed with myself when I finished Cara Colter’s “Chasing Dreams” in one day, I plugged through to the end of “A Song For Summer.”  But I almost gave up when I turned to “Part Two” at well past the halfway mark.  I couldn’t believe it; I thought there were only loose ends and a wrap up, and then bam, tragedy and war and England and marriage and rations and Canada.  It was a lot, and the whole time I’m like,

“Shit, who’s gonna die?  Because someone’s going to, right? I’m reading a wartime novel, will it be his plane that goes down or will she be crushed under a fallen building during the blitz?”

I truly believe the major difference between romance as a genre and literature with romantic elements boils down to a tragic ending or a happy ending.  “Cold Mountain” for example, very romantic and in the end very tragic.  Every piece of crap Nicholas Sparks novel with the hero dying at sea, or in a South American mudslide after repairing his troubled relationship with James Franco gets more cred than your typical paperback romance – all because someone dies and the lover is left alone and devastated! Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying all romances should focus on all things light and fluffy.  Tragedy has a place in romance – in the beginning and hopefully years before the story begins.  A tragic prologue, sure, I can certainly handle that – “Sunflower” by Jill Marie Landis features a heroine who was raped and impregnated while her family was murdered.  I can even handle the beloved first wife who died in childbirth scenario.  What I don’t want is tragedy at the end when I should be guaranteed a happy ending (I’m pretty sure it’s one of the RWA rules). “A Song For Summer” was a hardcover novel that doesn’t say “Romance” anywhere on the spine so I really did expect that ‘literature’ tragedy, and couldn’t quite believe that the H/H not only survive, but they get a happy ending.

There’s a double standard there somewhere, but  I’m not sure if I’m arguing for or against it.