Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Book Review: The Spirit of Nora by Lyle Scott Lee

The Spirit of Nora by Lyle Scott Lee
Published: November 29th, 2011
Publisher: Tate Publishing
280 pages (paperback)
Genre: Historical fiction
Acquired this book: From the author in exchange for an honest review
Warning: May include spoilers

Synopsis: Stretched across a backdrop of bustling New York, romantic Paris, and rural Russia in the early twentieth century, The Spirit of Nora vividly portrays the emergence of a young Minnesota woman into a fiercely independent spirit. Leaving her home on the farm with her childhood friend Ella for nursing training in New York, Nora enters a changing world. After befriending two doctors on the train east, Nora and Ella spend many evenings with Tristan and Soren. But a terrible tragedy pulls Ella from Nora, who eventually travels farther east, searching for redemption for failing her friend.

Nora becomes wrapped up in the permissive lifestyle of French artists, embracing relationships with the lively Cassandra and talented Auguste. While in France, she is confronted with physical temptations and spiritual uncertainty until she learns of the communal setting established on the estate of the Russian novelist Leo Tolstoy. The Spirit of Nora needs further nourishment for her wavering faith, and she continues yet farther east to Yasnaya Polyana to work with Tolstoy's translator. Through the following years Nora learns of hardship, love, war, and the difficulties in finding balance between right and wrong. Ultimately, she must come face to face with the legacy of her lost friend.

Spanning several decades, as well as several countries, The Spirit of Nora is a well-written, engaging tale about one girl’s incredible emotional, physical, and spiritual journey. I felt like I was there with Nora as she traveled first to New York City, then to France, then on to Russia. 

Nora was a multi-faceted character - she started off so innocent and almost naïve, but she changed and developed through the story, and learned many hard life lessons. She was very real - relatable, amusing, and at times frustrating.
Because she was so relatable, I enjoyed following Nora on her journey of self-discovery. I also enjoyed learning some interesting things about France and Russia, and what life was like pre-World War I, as well as during the war.

I’m sure there will be people who will have issues with a few of the things that happen in this book, but I personally appreciated the fact that the author didn’t avoid some ‘touchy’ subjects. Nora wasn’t perfect - she made mistakes, and her impulsive, independent nature got her into trouble, but that just made her more human to me. Also, as someone who’s more spiritual than religious, I tend to avoid books with major religious themes, and I admit I was worried when I read the synopsis; however, although a big part of the story is about Nora’s faith and her spiritual journey, it’s not overly religious or preachy or offensive, which I appreciated.

Overall, a beautiful story that I enjoyed very much and would recommend, especially to anyone who likes historical fiction. 

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