>Gabriel’s Inferno by Sylvain Reynard

Posted by Julie, A Tale of Many Reviews on June 24, 2011 in Reviews |


Release: April 19, 2011
Length: 507 pages
Age Group: Adult
Source: Review copy supplied by publisher
Recommend: Julie recommends this book to romance fans and especially character driven readers. Romance fans with an interest in Dante’s Inferno and Italian art may find this interesting as well.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZMm52d3TtEA]

Review by Julie

After just finishing the whirlwind novel that is Gabriel’s Inferno, I’m at a loss for words because there is so much to say. How to keep this review short enough to keep your interest, yet express my thoughts and feelings at the same time, is going to be the challenge. Let’s just begin with, after reading, I feel like I’ve lived a lifetime with these characters. Like everything in real life, there are good and bad things we like about a person and such is the case with me and this novel. Gabriel’s Inferno overall has left me quite satisfied as a character driven reader while still leaving me with aspects I didn’t care for.
Julia Mitchell is not the leading lady of her own life, if I can borrow a line from The Holiday. She is a passive, demur woman in her early twenties that has been beaten down by people who should have been protectors in her life, but instead have put themselves and their own vices ahead of her well being. The result being a beautiful woman who doesn’t know her potential or her own self worth. The one pivotal moment in her life occurs when she’s 17 and meets her best friend’s adopted brother Gabriel Emerson. It was love/lust at first sight for Julia, and an emotional encounter for Gabriel who has just been through a very traumatizing experience. Through this meeting, they share an evening that leaves lasting imprints on both, although in very different ways. One pines for the other for 7 years, while the other doesn’t realize the night was not a hallucination. This evening is the catalyst for what Julia makes of herself and her major decisions as an adult.
Gabriel Emerson is a gorgeous, self-indulgent man who has many vices. He is 10 years older than Julia and thus has lived a life before she re-enters his world at the University where he teaches. We don’t learn the full extent of what makes Gabriel the hard, vice ridden man that he is until half way through the book and then he is slowly revealed by the author as a very redeemable character. The transformation he makes is the most radical of the characters and I was very happy for him in the end.
There are supporting characters that make this story well rounded and add to the plot, help to thicken the plot, and to help guide our two main characters through life. There is a lot of discussion and comparison with Dante, Italian art and literature, but you don’t need to be an expert to follow the story. Although, if you are familiar with any of these, I am sure the comparisons will make much more sense than to a reader, like me, that other than the basics, has no real understanding of Virgil, Dante, Beatrice, or art during the Renaissance. There is also particular attention to music throughout, where I caught myself not recognizing the artist or title, stopping, and looking up the piece in order to understand the scene better. Because of the author’s knowledge and ability to weave a contemporary story around these classic pieces, the novel comes across as better written than the average contemporary romance. There are speech patterns that really aren’t found in anyone I know on an average day, but these characters are academics, speak other languages, and read literature that only Italian academics would read. Therefore, it is plausible the way they interact with each could happen. Does it read like a romance novel? Yes, in that the love scenes and professions of love are the kind you see in old movies or read in books, sigh wistfully and think to yourself, “This doesn’t happen in real life, but if it did, I’d swoon.”
My main critique would be the length of the novel. This does feel like a very long read at 507 pages, which is why I feel like I’ve lived a lifetime with the characters. There is a lot that happens in the course of this book. That isn’t to say I didn’t enjoy every minute of it, or couldn’t wait to see what happened. In fact, I couldn’t put the book down. But, I did question frequently, “How long is this?” If you have the patience, this story unfolds and well worth the additional time to read it. If you are one that wants the story to get on with it, and not character driven, this may not be for you. After talking with another reader about the length of this book, I will say I’m use to reading 3-4 books/week half this size. I have grown an inner clock, if you will, of when those books should start their plot decline. This may be why I felt the book was long, due to my aquired stamina of shorter books.
I will say, also possibly due to the length, some of the character’s personalities had time to get on my nerves, which may not have happened if the story unfolded more quickly. At one point, Julia’s shyness and “Um” when she would start a sentence made me want to shake her. Gabriel worrying so much about her being on her knees to pick things up, or not wanting her to “worry” her bottom lip made me want to roll my eyes. The “darlings”, “love”, and pet names at times seemed over the top, but again, when looking at this as a contemporary love story to rival the classic stories, I can see where it has its place. Granted, this is small potatoes when comparing my liking to the book overall. I did enjoy the humor that would pop up occasionally and found myself smiling or chuckling. 
I would definitely recommend this book to romantics, those that like redeemable characters finding their happy endings, and good reads that you don’t want to end. This book gives the reader much time to learn and explore these characters, their world, their emotions, their evolution, and finally their Paradise.

Caveat: In response to questions I received concerning the level of academic discussion in Gabriel’s Inferno, you do not need to have read any of the 14th-century epic poem Divine Comedy or know about Dante’s real life. You could easily look up the basics online and still follow the discussions in the novel if you wish. In fact, the author does a nice job making you want to know more about the original work and Dante’s life in the telling of this contemporary story. The author parallels Gabriel and Julia’s relationship with that of Dante and Beatrice, Gabriel’s journey to that of Dante’s Hell and the road to redemption. Following what is happening to them, and the comparisons THEY make in their academic volley with themselves lets the reader follow along without getting lost.


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