Having read and enjoyed A Paris Haunting by the same author last year, I was very pleased to come across Candlepower while browsing favourite authors on Amazon. I downloaded it and began reading it almost at once, finding myself rapidly drawn in to the intriguing story.
Narrated by Stella, all events are filtered through her consciousness, but as seems to happen with Doolaege's novels, the POV character takes something of a back seat in order to turn the spotlight on other characters. There are some marvellous characters in Candlepower, though none more delightful than Rose. Of course, the other thing this author does so well is evoke the atmosphere of a Paris unseen by tourists, making the reading a satisfying, visual experience.
The question of who and what Rose is permeates the entire story. She's an ethereal being and I spent a lot of time wondering if she was meant to be real. She lives alone in a Paris apartment opposite Stella, teaching and playing beautiful music, creating exquisite patchwork quilts by candlelight (she shuns electricity) and talking to the birds.
It is when Stella's canary, Topaz escapes through the window that Stella first meets Rose. Unable the resist the attraction Rose has over all living creatures, Topaz leaves his tree and flies into her hands, and that's the beginning of a rather haunting friendship.
There is a beautiful poignancy about the way this story unfolds around the two almost-tragic females who find friendship in a world in which they are both slightly out of kilter. Bilingual Stella escapes from an overbearing mother, academic father, not-too-loveable brother and an unhappy love affair, into a Paris apartment she purchases with her beloved grandmother's legacy. She yearns to love and be loved and after meeting Rose, embarks on another love affair with Rose's friend, Olivier, ignoring all the hints that her fragile heart is again at serious risk.
Of Rose, Stella tells her father, "People are drawn to her, but somehow they're scared of her at the same time." This sums up everyone's attitude towards the tormented Rose and the reader longs to know more about her and for the other characters to understand and accept this strange and rather wonderful creature in the same way the birds do with their unquestioning adoration.
It's always difficult, when writing a review, to say enough to interest other readers but not too much to give away 'spoilers', so I'm reluctant to say more about the events and mar the reading experience for others. And it's a reading experience I highly recommend. When I wasn't reading it, I was thinking about it and when I was reading, I was mesmerised by the often grim Parisian atmosphere and the colourful, diverse characters. The story is beautifully told and weaves a magical spell that held me enthralled from beginning to end. Read it - enjoy the magic.
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