The Nightingale's Song
by Kathleen Eschenburg, historical (2001)
Harper, $6.99, ISBN 0-380-81569-9


"Wow and wow again!" says LaVyrle Spencer. "This story has everything," Diana Gabaldon gushes.

Are they describing the sleeping pill effect of this book, I wonder.

This is a debut novel, and it's a decent debut novel as far as debut novels go.

Cut that. What am I saying? Reading The Nightingale's Song is a chore, because everything is crammed towards the late third of the story. The first two-thirds is basically The Sound Of Music leftovers served for dinner. It's not a bad book, but it's also a very good sleeping disorder aid.

Maggie Quinn is almost a nun, and she's a good singer. She came to America all the way from Ireland as a tiny orphan bas - sorry, poor lil' kid, so let us take out our white hankies and sob for a moment for dear, lovely Maggie Quinn. *honk* Today, she is a kiddie teacher, and she spends her time caring for kids. For the rest of the story, she doesn't seem to display any independent thought. Everything she does and says is compelled by people around her. Maggie is actually 100% selfless - and 100% snorebore. Fans of Florence Nightingale minus the courage, personality, conviction, and character will love Maggie. Oh, and oh yeah, she has also some blue on-yer-wrong-side-of-the-blankies blood in her. That completes our selfless waifish Maria, surely. No, wait, we need kiddies. Not just kiddies, kiddies that are extensions of a Colonel Von Trapp that she can cater her selfless nature to some more.

This brings us to Gordon Kincaid. His daughter Clara, born to some Slut Who Spread And Hence Doesn't Deserve Our Pity (Slut!), is in the orphanage and he wants her back. Maggie is suitably aghast but when he offers to marry her after Another Slut tries to cause trouble (or something), she agrees.

The orchestra is lowered from the cheap set on the stage and starts playing a high school version of The Sound Of Music. I dim off the lights, put on my ear muffs, and fall asleep dreaming of hunks in very little clothes fighting to reenact Anthony and Cleopatra with me.

Gordon as a self-proclaimed arrogant wealthy Colonel Third Rate Von Crappy is a bit stiff in his diction and actions. Once at the family home in Virginia, the orchestra launches into Oh, Can I Fit In, Me And My Countrified Irish Ways. Gordon has baggages that are as stiff and stilted as his speech, and it's up to our Maggie, wee selfless Maggie, to warm his heart. Or something. Maggie wonders if she loves him, albeit a superficial way, because in the end, she is so selfless that she probably doesn't know where obligation ends and martyrhood begins. She and he are uninteresting characters and their emotional baggages seem to be mere extensions of their one-dimensional personality (Gordon = tortured by Sluts and Evil Parents, Maggie = Wonderbra Martyr). The story plods like never before in the beginning, and gets circular and repetitious towards the end.

All in all, this book is a chore to read.

And don't get me started about the two brats in this story.

Anyway, The Nightingale's Song is decently written, in that I'm sure this story will please fans looking for heroes who need fixing from unbelievably selfless heroines. But to me, it's not smart enough to be even manipulative, maybe from the lack of experience on the author's part. It's just one of those just there stories, leaving me rather unmoved. And sleepy, don't forget sleepy.

Rating: 55


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