Sunday, April 19, 2015

"A Small Indiscretion," by Jan Ellison

Jan Ellison’s novel “A Small Indiscretion” (Random House, 2014) has a teasing, seductive title, and that title sets the tone for the novel. In this book, her first, Ellison writes what qualifies as a literary novel, but with large portions of mystery, even thriller-like structure and plot developments. The novel alternates between the main character Annie Black’s adventures as an American girl in London twenty-plus years ago, replete with adventure, intrigue, secrecy, and of course sex and drinking, on the one hand, and Annie’s present-day life as a married mother of three living in San Francisco, California, on the other. One day a photo arrives in the mail, a sort of intrusion from her London past, reminding her of a lost love, precipitating a new trip to London, and setting off a chain of events that threatens her marriage and family. The story is well constructed, and although at times the quick cuts back and forth between the past and present are too jumpy for my this reader’s comfort, we readers are kept wanting to keep reading. As for the mystery part, I guessed about halfway through what some of the secrets were, but that did not stop me from eagerly reading to the end. The novel is an intriguing blend of romance, adventure, family story, mystery, and drama. For me the story was enhanced by both the San Francisco (and environs) and London settings, with a side trip to Paris for good measure. And if some of the character development is a little thin, and at least one character is a bit “over the top” (the intense but elusive London lover/artist Patrick), one finds oneself (OK, I found myself) not caring about such small details in the midst of the breathless forward movement of the story. For a “good read” with literary qualifications (and isn’t that a perfect combination?), I recommend “A Small Indiscretion.”
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