‘Splendora’ by Edward Swift

I finally finished ‘Splendora’ by Edward Swift. Finally because I got distracted and thus took forever to read this one even though it was a really interesting read. I am a little bit concerned about spoiling parts of the storyline so maybe I should just use the official summary from Netgalley once again.

The new librarian in the tiny town of Splendora, Texas, has a big secret

A stunning and stylish femme fatale named Miss Jessie Gatewood has arrived in the dusty hamlet of Splendora. Miss Jessie is the new town librarian—but she has much bigger plans than just shelving books. She intends to give the town and its people a much-needed makeover. But even as she is influencing the fashion sense of the local ladies—and winning the heart of the lovesick Brother Leggett, Splendora’s Baptist minister—a surprising plan for vengeance occupies the fabulous Miss Gatewood’s mind.

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So, Miss Jessie moves to Splendora to become the town’s librarian but it’s not as easy as that. She is also the son of a Splendora native, returning to the home of her childhood. I’m sorry if this news spoils anything for you, but just looking at the cover for this book probably gives that much away anyway.

In the beginning the townspeople of the small Texas community have no idea that she is living a double life and it is fascinating to see how the town reacts to the ‘strange’ woman. The resident women start to idolise her which is funny considering she was mostly made fun of when she lived there years before with her Grandmother who has since passed.

Edward Swift manages to capture the small town life quite well. I had a difficult time pinpointing in which time period this novel was set until I saw the book was first released in 1978. This speaks volumes in my opinion. On the one hand it shows its timeless character but on the other hand it’s sad that things haven’t much changed over the last 30+ years.

I do have to say, the story dragged throughout the first half in my opinion. It took FOREVER for Miss Jessie’s first day in Splendora to be described as we were treated with flashbacks to her time in New Orleans and childhood in Splendora. All those moments are important for the story but it just took a looooong time. Once the pace picked up though, this was soon forgotten and the connections of the female gossipers of Splendora were portrayed very well. I’m pretty sure, lots of places in rural America (or rural Germany for that matter) still look and feel exactly like this portrayal from the 1970s.

I really liked the ending which I am not going to say anything about just yet because that would really spoil stuff but it was good in my opinion. I liked the gender-fluidity of the protagonist and the understanding nature of some of the townspeople. This marks the first book I actually read about a gender fluid person and the way the difficulties in Miss Jessie’s daily life, her struggles seemed real and well described.

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