The May Queen

The May QueenThe May Queen by Helen Irene Young

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

This is an odd little book that you have to spend time on and occasionally fill in the gaps, but could be worth the time if you want to make the investment.

Beginning in 1934 when May is fourteen and ending in 1945 when she is twenty-five years old, this follows the story of May who has to deal with the illegitimate pregnancy of her sister Sophie in a time when it was frowned upon to be pregnant outside of marriage. With her sister in disgrace, May is further confused by the attention from Christopher, the slightly older boy from Park House, the Big House of the area, which her parents believe will lead her to the same troubled path her sister life has taken. We then follow May as she grows up, not knowing where her sister is, coming across letters hidden by her mother where Sophie insists that she is never going to return home. Then after years of family drama and May growing up, we are transported to May 1940 and the beginning of World War Two where May is old enough to become a Wren. By sheer good luck she is made a dispatch rider in London, convinced that Christopher is the father of Sophie’s baby. There is a slight romance with another man amid the excitement of life in a city at war which finally ends with May returning home much changed to love with her now disabled mother, her sister and her niece Honor. The story ends oddly with May and Christopher coming together – perhaps sexually – and leaves the ending very open ended.

This book made for an uneven read. At some points I had to read sections twice and try to interpret what the writer meant even when she hadn’t used enough words to fully express herself. Sections felt disjointed and much was left to the imagination of the reader. There is some slight character development over the course of time, but whether you care about the characters is another thing altogether. There were points in which I wondered if paragraphs had been deleted from my copy of the book because it didn’t make clear sense from one point to another. I struggle to write a clear synopsis because the theme of the book is not clear. There is a minor theme of homosexuality in the book, which pitches it as true love and May having no issue with it at all. This book doesn’t read smoothly, rather it is uneven in composition, which is disappointing, as the premise of the book was really interesting.

In the end, whilst I read this book in its entirety, it wasn’t a fulfilling experience.

Published April 2017

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