Thursday, September 1, 2011

Nectar by Lily Prior

   Ramona Drottoveo  may not be the most beautiful woman in Italy, but there's something about her that makes her irresistible to men.  She is an overweight, albino servant, yet she emits a scent that all men find intoxicating, and this allows her to manipulate people into giving her whatever her cold little heart desires.  Ramona is used to special treatment, and is also accustomed to countless lovers, daily marriage proposals, and oh so many gifts.

   But there's just one problem: when Ramona gives birth to a child, Blandina, her scent disappears and takes the magic of her aroma with it.  Yet Ramona is greedy and spoiled and determined to get what she wants with or without the enchanting scent, so she must be a bit more creative in her manipulations in order to maintain the lifestyle to which she is accustomed.

   This is a very quirky little book, but Lily Prior's simple and straightforward prose makes Nectar read like an anti-fairy tale.  While I was reading this novel I was continuously reminded of The Princess Bride (the movie).  Nectar exudes a similar sense of sarcasm and witty humor, with a fuzzy dreamlike quality.  In fact, I would not have been surprised if Ramona had come across an ROUS or two in the Italian countryside.  Just to give you an idea, here's an excerpt from chapter 37, in which a man who has lost his sense of smell in a terrible accident believes he is still affected by Ramona's scent, despite that fact that the aroma disappeared with Blandina's birth long ago:
And when he couldn't sit with his head buried in her lap, he insisted on carrying an item of her clothing around with him, like a child with a comfort blanket.  He had started talking to the aroma, having identified it with a particularly soft female voice inside his head.  He wrote poetry to the scent and recited it.  He had taken up painting and started painting pictures of it. (page 217)
    Recently, a few friends and I started a book club, and Nectar is our first official book club choice.  We haven't met to discuss the novel yet, but I hope everyone else liked it as much as I did.  Nectar is charming and funny, and through this novel, Lily Prior provides us with an ironic and entertaining portrayal of the effects of temptation and desire.