The PJ Tatler

Pick Up PJ Lifestyle Contributor Hannah Sternberg's Debut Novel Queens of All the Earth

Yesterday Murphy’s Law seemed to take a vacation too. Thankfully to a destination other than ours.

April and I flew from Los Angeles to Minneapolis to our family waiting to pick us up in Indianapolis. And it was one of the most uneventful, pleasant traveling experiences of recent memory.

I suspect though that had everything fallen apart I wouldn’t have minded much. Because at the top of my holiday reading list was my friend Hannah Sternberg’s impressive debut novel Queens of All the Earth. During our flights I devoured the first 110 pages of this rich reinvention of E. M. Forster’s A Room With a View. (And as soon as this post is up I’m going to finish the 50 remaining.) The premise: on the eve of her first semester at Cornell Olivia has a nervous breakdown. Three months later her older sister Miranda decides to take her for a week in Barcelona to help her recover. Once there the sisters drink in the Spanish culture and make new friends.

The book’s prose is vivid, poetic, and rich. My eyes turn a jealous bright green at Hannah’s literary abilities. Often I’d read a passage only to stop and reread it again to bask in its skillful construction. Usually when reviewing books I’ll highlight especially memorable parts but for Queens of All the Earth that wasn’t necessary. I could just pick a page at random and there would be some gem. So let’s do that. Here’s a paragraph from page 63, referencing poet e.e. cummings:

The feeling quieted when she looked down and found Cummings open on her lap. She began to read, this time less meticulously, just for the sake of moving her eyes over a text, like stroking the soft blanket she’d had as a child. She let the words flow, and while they now made as little sense to her as before, somehow she felt them more as they dropped into her mind like pellets of rain. Sophie’s lilies had been moved since the afternoon to the back of the room near the window, away from the places where the guests bustled most. They smelled like green and white.

If you have a Kindle then you might as well just buy Queens of All the Earth right now because $5.69 is a steal of a price for a book you’ll enjoy this much.

I’ll have a more thorough review and commentary soon for one of my weekly articles soon at PJ Lifestyle.