- Genre: Contemporary / Women’s Fiction / Coming of Age
- Date of Publication: April 7, 2017
- Number of Pages: 160
Buy, read, and discuss The Adventures of Miss Vulpe:
Maria Elena Sandovici lives in Houston with her dog. She travels to Bucharest often and also to Spain, but her favorite trip remains 45 South to Galveston. She has an art studio at Hardy and Nance in the Warehouse District, open the third Saturday of every month, blogs daily at havewatercolorswilltravel.com, and writes poetry in the voice of her dog. She is also the author of three previous novels about women who are struggling with finding their place in the world.
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I’ve never liked the word “unputdownable.” Aside from its general awkwardness, I always see it as a challenge: if someone describes a book this way, I feel that my job is to see just how quickly I can put it down. Imagine my chagrin, then, to have to admit that once I began reading Maria Elena Sandovici’s engaging novel The Adventures of Miss Vulpe, I literally could not put it down until I’d read it straight through.
In this “coming of age story for adults,” Sandovici has given us a snarky, smart, somewhat precocious young protagonist who is as broken as she is spunky. I instantly connected with her theatricality (Ana uses goth makeup and sophisticated clothing; I wore a lorgnette to school for a week after seeing The Scarlet Pimpernel for the first time). I also completely “got” her use of humor as a defense mechanism. I, too, have always used snark as a weapon. Sandovici’s writing ability shines in those moments when Ana is disarming people with dark humor.
But Ana isn’t just a prickly teenager. She’s also a broken one, suffering from the death (apparently a double suicide) of both her parents, bristling at the guardian with a connection to her that she doesn’t understand, and never quite belonging anywhere she is sent. (A boarding school in Switzerland is “too clean,” and has mountain views that she hates, while her mother’s house is inhabited by memories and two hired caretakers who dwell in superstition.)
When Ana acts out – by stealing small items that bring her joy – or by tracking down a man her mother knew and starting a completely inappropriate relationship with him in her bid to learn the real story of her mother’s life – that’s when we see her at her most resourceful, yes, but also at her most shattered.
But Ana isn’t the only character in this novel, though she is the main one. In flashbacks, we learn the story of Richard Devereaux, an American southerner to whom Ana’s mother Louise was writing, shortly before her death, and through his story we also learn about Rogers, the guardian who may have more than just a passing interest in Ana’s well-being.
This novel is richly crafted, with details about Ana’s life in Bucharest and it’s surroundings. I was particularly entranced by descriptions of an old hotel on the Black Sea, a place which was once toney and now oozes “faded luxury,” but I felt like I was experiencing Bucharest, and later (to a lesser degree) Madrid, through Ana’s eyes.
Part coming-of-age story, part mystery, The Adventures of Miss Vulpe is an entertaining read, yes, but it’s also deeper than a first glance would imply, and ultimately the story is quite satisfying.
Goes well with espresso and petits fours.
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