I didn’t know where to put The Thorn and the Blossom, which is actually a novella. But it didn’t fit on the Stories page, so I created a brand new Novels page for it.
The Thorn and the Blossom, Quirk Books, 2011.
One enchanting romance. Two lovers keeping secrets. And a uniquely crafted book that binds their stories forever.
When Evelyn Morgan walked into the village bookstore, she didn’t know she would meet the love of her life. When Brendan Thorne handed her a medieval romance, he didn’t know it would change the course of his future. It was almost as if they were the cursed lovers in the old book itself . . .
The Thorn and the Blossom is a remarkable literary artifact: You can open the book in either direction to decide whether you’ll first read Brendan’s, or Evelyn’s account of the mysterious love affair. Choose a side, read it like a regular novel – and when you get to the end, you’ll find yourself at a whole new
Here’s what people have said about The Thorn and the Blossom.
Publisher’s Weekly: Evelyn Morgan is a university student struggling to lead her own life despite others’ expectations; Brendan Thorne’s troubles begin when he loses his wife to heart failure and subsequently quits his job. A chance meeting leads to their falling in love around the centerpiece of a medieval Cornish version of the tale of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, and from then on their lives and relationship seem to be a modern-day parallel of the frustrated romance between Gawan and his beloved, Elowen. But Goss (In the Forest of Forgetting) presents no ordinary linear tale: the reader is treated to both characters’ stories in parallel on alternate sides of an accordion-style book, letting the reader decide which story to begin with. The fantasy elements are light, revolving mostly around Gawan’s story and Evelyn’s visions of fairies and trolls. Overall this makes the tale align more with old-fashioned romance than pure speculative fiction, but Goss’ appealing characters and modern magic atmosphere will continue to attract a following.
School Library Journal: Evelyn and Brendan’s story is told twice, once from each perspective, in this intriguing production. After a semester abroad at Oxford, American Evelyn Morgan takes a vacation in the Cornwall fishing village of Clews. Brendan Thorne is a local, minding his father’s bookstore when she stops in. They hit it off immediately, and Brendan is inspired to show Evelyn the town’s one attraction, a circle of standing stones. “The Tale of the Green Knight,” a local legend, has it that Elowen, queen of Cornwall, came to King Arthur’s court looking for help against a group of giants led by an evil sorceress, Morva. Gawan volunteered. The circle marks the spot where Elowen and Gawan defeated the giants, but Morva, jealous of their love, cursed them to be separated for 1000 years. [ . . . ] Their fates are clearly intertwined with this legend. Could they be the most recent incarnation of the cursed lovers? This simply told short story is enhanced by the physical design of the book–accordion style pages with hardbound covers. One cover is titled “Evelyn’s Story,” and the other is “Brendan’s Story.” Teens who enjoy a romantic tale will be enchanted by the clever packaging and the fanciful, touching story of young people thwarted in love.
Damien Walter in The Guardian: But what if true love is rare – so rare that we might only find it once every ten lifetimes? Would you suffer loneliness for eternity waiting for love, or would you settle for something less? Such is the theme of The Thorn and the Blossom by Theodora Goss, a novel almost as remarkable for its format as its writing (but only almost). [ . . . ] Goss has written some of the most remarkable short fantasy fiction of recent years, shortlisted for the World Fantasy award for short fiction in 2005 for “The Wings of Master Wilhelm,” republished in her sole collection to date, 2006′s In the Forest of Forgetting. The Thorn and the Blossom is Goss’s longest work to date but even with its dual stories combined it numbers less than 100 pages. Nevertheless, it extends her fascination with postmodern revisions of myth and folktale, which has led to her being labelled among the emerging “mythpunk” movement in contemporary fantasy. The Thorn and the Blossom introduces the courtly Arthurian myth of Gawain and Elowen, and recasts it in modern garb, asking the reader to wonder if the values of courtly love could survive in the modern world.
Paul Goat Allen on Unabashedly Bookish: The BN Community Blog: Leave it to Quirk Books to – once again – blow me away with an insanely innovative release. [ . . . ] The bottom line is this: the initial appeal of The Thorn and the Blossom is its unique construction but what makes this such a memorable reading experience is Goss’ poignant and deeply lyrical writing style. The fusion of contemporary romance and English folklore with the Green Man motif throughout gives this novel a dreamy feel and makes for an undeniably enchanting read – romance fans who enjoy their literary escapism flavored with myth and folklore will absolutely cherish this innovative and heartrending novel.
Dialect Magazine: Destined, unstoppable true love is a theme I tend to avoid in my reading, but Goss expertly blends the all-encompassing passion, and the literary love story, with the history and myth of Arthurian legend, layered like the accordion folds of the novella. The beautiful craftsmanship and slightly awkward form of this novel is a perfect format for the love story within. It is just inconvenient and fragile enough to prohibit one-handed subway reading, making reading The Thorn and The Blossom into a more mindful activity. In Goss’ The Thorn And The Blossom, fairies and witches’ curses and true love are real, but so is catching the bus and marking papers. This is magical realism at its best, a blend of epic love story and subtle affection. This story is for readers who believe in magic and true love, but not in lovers pining away, blandly waiting for a match to turn up and transform life.
And here is a video of the reading I did from the book with my editor, Stephen Segal, at Boskone this year, as well as a video of the following Q&A.