When eighteen-year-old Eleanora’s father is shot dead on the cobblestone streets of 1910 Albania, Eleanora must abandon her dream of studying art in Italy as she struggles to survive in a remote mountain village with her stepmother Meria. Nearing starvation, Meria secretly sells Eleanora into marriage with the cruel heir of a powerful clan. Intent on keeping her freedom, Eleanora takes an oath to remain a virgin for the rest of her life—a tradition that gives her the right to live as a man: she is now head of her household and can work for a living as well as carry a gun. Eleanora can also participate in the vengeful blood feuds that consume the mountain tribes, but she may not be killed—unless she forsakes her vow, which she has no intention of ever doing. But when an injured stranger stumbles into her life, Eleanora nurses him back to health, saving his life—yet risking her own as she falls in love with him… (From Amazon.com)
So what I really liked the most about the book is the historical background and aspect. It’s rich in detail and sheds a light on the customs in Albania. I loved the descriptions of the setting, the clothing especially and how family life was at the time. Despite that Eleanora lived differently from others in the village, traditions are deep rooted, strong and followed to the exact detail. It’s all about maintaining family honor and if disgraced, the way to gain it back is likely with someone killing the other from the rival family that did you wrong. It’s pretty harsh and during that time doesn’t give much voice to women in general, but Eleanora’s personality is strong and admirable even though she’s pretty much a daddy’s girl (which helps her let her be who she wants to be).
The first half of the book was great and got the reading going pretty quickly. It wasn’t until the last third of the novel where things bog down and I was afraid of this: the moment the ‘man of the her dreams’ came into the story. Then I was instantly reminded as to why I hated “Memoirs of a Geisha” so much and this mirrors it. Holy mother. The guy was the sun, moon and stars for Eleanora. I kind of get it after what happened to her dad but for crying out loud I was rooting for Eleanora for taking the vow and being strong. All it takes is an Adonis to break that all down. Eleanora then takes a complete 360 and becomes a mooncalf.
I lost admiration after her treatment of Meria. I get it. Meria shouldn’t have done that nonsense because she’s all obsessed with family honor and had Eleanora’s best interest even though it was far from beneficial. I thought her treatment was excessive to the point of abuse and cruelty and I felt like jumping in and giving Eleanora the beat down for her stupidities.
Then Eleanora’s mood swings go from pity party to guilt and goes back and forth for what seemed like the entire last third of the novel and it got tiresome to read. You know Eleanora, you could have solved all this if you JUST. TELL. HIM.
And when she does. Your patience is done with the book and depending how you found the book you either breathe a sigh in relief or roll your eyes because it took about 50 pages to get Eleanora to smarten up and the book would have ended sooner than later.
I liked the book at first, but it just didn’t hold it for me. The pity trips, and the self torment Eleanora goes through is just too much and made up a good half of the novel. I wish it could have been better because the historical aspect was excellent.
I give it a 3 out of 10.