Lorna versus Laura by Cynthia Hilston
Published September 2nd, 2017
I received a copy of Lorna versus Laura in exchange for an honest review.
Ever since a tragic accident took the lives of her parents, grief-stricken and lonely Lorna Ashford has buried herself by destroying everything left behind — objects, memories, relationships, and even her faith. In the backdrop of 1940s Cleveland, Ohio, Lorna sets out to begin anew after her brother leaves to fight in World War II. Living in a new house, she takes up painting and strikes up an unlikely friendship with the eccentric widower next door. But something is off about neighbor Tristan Blake, who lives in a house stuck in the past — his wife’s blackened out eyes stare out of picture frames, and dead flowers linger in her vases. Lorna can’t figure him out, as Tristan is both closed off, yet offers to help her at every turn. As Lorna’s life seems to be coming together, another tragedy threatens to undo all that she has worked to rebuild. Tristan becomes her rock. But with Tristan’s mysterious past, will Lorna be able to paint a masterpiece of love to become Laura again, or will everything she’s worked to create with Tristan be nothing more than a messy splatter of paint on a canvas?
I rated Lorna versus Laura 3/5 stars on Goodreads.
This review, like all my reviews, is spoiler-free.
Lorna versus Laura by Cynthia Hilston tells the story of Lorna Ashford, whose name change from Laura to Lorna was prompted by a tragedy that left her and younger brother Chucky orphans. Lorna’s internal struggle as she copes with the loss of her parents and her strange, forlorn next-door-neighbor are described in dizzying detail, capitalizing on our human tendency to comfort those in pain. And trust me, Lorna’s felt plenty of pain.
Throughout Lorna versus Laura, there is a nice maturity to the writing that I don’t typically encounter in self-published works. Hilston has clearly combed through her book, almost agonizing over how to make each word, each sentence, each period as effective as possible. She writes from a place of confidence that reads beautifully through her concise syntax and variance of vocabulary. Hilston knows what she’s doing and does it well.
Lorna Ashford is an extremely likable protagonist. She has plenty of idiosyncrasies; we don’t know how or why she acquired these peculiar traits, like slathering paint on canvas and naming them after the people she loves, but she was an intriguing narrator. I related to her character not in spite of her flaws, but because of them. She’s broken, but serves as a reminder that broken things are beautiful too.
The same goes for mysterious neighbor, Tristan Blake. The sense that he’s trouble comes through clearly throughout the story, but this impending sense of something-wicked-this-way-comes drew me into his character. I was personally invested in Tristan Blake’s relationship with Lorna and his growth and development as a character. He’s not an easy man to love, but there’s something worth loving underneath all that straggly facial hair. Tragedy seems to follow Tristan Blake, but I was never sure how it would manifest itself.
Though I enjoyed the characters themselves, I found some of their interactions rather bland. These two people are incredibly complex and have encountered far too much heartbreak for people so young, but they didn’t provide any unique ideas on loss and life. I was looking forward to the complexities to be found, but thought the potential to explore grief in an intriguing way was squandered. I expected vulnerability and tenderness and often found anything but.
An aspect of Lorna versus Laura that I loved was the World War II-era setting. Hilston communicated the setting through the antiquated vocabulary and descriptions of their basic mannerisms, giving the reader a tasteful glimpse into how their lives are different from ours. The setting doesn’t define the story, but complements it nicely and highlights the strengths of Hilston’s narrative.
The plot twists throughout the narrative were necessary and interesting, but relatively predictable. I saw them coming from a mile away. Nothing shocked me like it was supposed to, making it difficult to enjoy the fallout of these interesting twists of fate. The foreshadowing was almost too heavy-handed, giving me ample evidence to back up my predictions.
Overall, Lorna versus Laura is an interesting story about a woman and her struggles to comprehend her grief through art, through love, and through trying to find life again.
Have you read Lorna versus Laura? What did you think?
Related Post: Annie’s 2018 Reading Challenge
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