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In This Delicious Garden; Or, Les Enfants du Paradis
The mysterious monkeys of Mont Blanc? Hot on their trail, an aspiring athlete seeks closure to an almost forgotten trauma. Instead, he is found-by a dark secret that forces the villagers of Chamonix to examine their own tragic past. An elderly mushroom forager confronts her conscience. An eco-terrorist pornographer craves redemption. A child refugee awakens the mayor to the true identity of the Chamoniard people. Told across four seasons, this surreal tale brings to light what is enchanting and feared within this world-famous, alpine town. Watch as Chamonix's glaciers melt away and give up secrets that have long been kept on ice.

Quarter Finalist

Plot/Idea: 9 out of 10
Originality: 10 out of 10
Prose: 10 out of 10
Character/Execution: 10 out of 10
Overall: 9.75 out of 10

Assessment:

Plot: At first glance, this series of vignettes set in the French region of Chamonix may seem loosely connected. However, Pietras’s novel blends surrealism and fact masterfully, for a superbly plotted, fast-paced work that readers will undoubtedly enjoy.

Prose/Style: Pietras’s masterful prose transports readers to the magical, maddening setting of Chamonix. Every detail, from the ethereal setting to the memorable cast of characters, is elevated by  Pietras’s engaging, skillful writing.

Originality: Despite the wealth of historical research Pietras put into this novel, readers will be hard-pressed to find another work like In This Delicious Garden. It blends myth, fantasy, history, and fact into an exciting novel that feels wholly original.

Character Development: In This Delicious Garden boasts a memorable cast of characters that includes carnivorous horses, ageless monkeys, an elderly mushroom hunter, an ecoterrorist pornographer, and a family of refugees. Still, the protagonist of the novel should be considered the region of Chamonix itself: alluring and dangerous, wicked and generous.

Blurb: A beautifully crafted and hypnotic feast of myths and captivating characters, set amid the dangerous French mountains.

Date Submitted: April 24, 2020

Reviews
With a mind-bending blend of history and loosely connected vignettes, debut novelist Pietras pens a literary love letter to the myths, mountains, and characters of Chamonix, France. A haven for extreme sports enthusiasts in almost all seasons, Pietras’s Chamonix has its share of legends that flourish among the secretive, tourist-tolerating locals. Little perturbs them, though they tend to steer clear of the murderous Chevaux des Bossons—a pack of reputedly bloodthirsty horses cared for by Madame Champignon, who’s a bit of a local legend herself. When stranger-than-usual deaths begin to occur and there are quiet mentions of monkeys spotted among the area’s peaks and glaciers, both are quickly attributed to the strange, eccentric nature of Chamonix—though the author declines to say why.

At once a work of “fact-ion” and a detailed examination of a cultural subdivision, the novel contains elements of intrigue, fantasy, spirituality, and psychological terror, but focuses more on descriptions and character histories than on plot. Casual readers may find their attention wandering from the cerebral, labyrinthine prose, which can obfuscate Pietras’s subtle, clever commentary on politics and philosophy. Transitions are particularly jarring, and readers might need to reread earlier sections to follow the connections the author tries to make.

Pietras’s intimate character sketches have a fresh, whimsical feel, especially when paired with intricate, expansive descriptions of a beloved town. The novel is sometimes more thoughtful than coherent. This beautifully crafted but sprawling blend of travelogue and fiction will appeal to literary readers with a love of wordplay.

Takeaway: Readers with overlapping interests in extreme sports, history, and philosophy will appreciate this beautifully crafted, sprawling blend of travelogue and fiction.

Great for fans of Jon Krakauer, John Kennedy Toole.

Production grades
Cover: A
Design and typography: A
Illustrations: -
Editing: B
Marketing copy: C

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