Title: The Art of Peeling an Orange
Author Name: Victoria Avilan
Publication Date & Length: January 23, 2015 — 357 pages
The Art of Peeling an Orange, set in sizzling and bustling West Hollywood, is an erotic, risqué take on the myth of Orpheus and Eurydice. The story’s structure, characters and themes echo the ancient Greek myth of the lovers in the Land of the Dead.
When portrait artist Carley Rosen loses her fiancé Greg Wheeler to the alluring Anna Garibaldi, her life is shattered. Carly’s first meeting with Anna, aka the Divine One, at Greg’s funeral leaves her obsessed with the woman who has ruined her life, seeing Anna as Hades and herself as Orpheus, who will charm her way to the Land of the Dead to retrieve her beloved. Yet when the fearful Carly gets an appointment with the woman she sees as her powerful enemy, she is in for the surprise of her life. Nothing in her experience has prepared her for that Hades, nor her Underworld.
I’ve called this Modern Gothic as I can’t think of a better way to describe Avilan’s mix of realism, surrealism and the supernatural. Madness is a key feature of the Gothic genre and I found myself alternately trying to decide if anyone at all was sane and expecting to find the first Mrs. Rochester in an attic somewhere.
Avilan’s language is very melodramatic. Characters brood, argue and make-up in seemingly endless cycles. I’m not sure I was suposed to like any of the main characters, but I found myself absolutly hating Carly’s indecisive tantrums and her helplesness by the novel’s half-way point.
Avilan writes in the first person, changing perspective frequently. It was Kyra’s voice I most warmed to, but by the end, I felt the character had lost the authenticity that first drew me to her.
Anna’s story is suspenseful and intriguing as it starts untangle. The layers of secrets surrounding her life and Greg’s death are exciting and complicated.
I didn’t enjoy Avilan’s steady stream of highbrow references. The art references were excusable because her central characters were artists. But I can’t see any point to the constant classic and literary references. I just wanted Avilan to write her own story.
Victoria Avilan is the author of two novels, “The Art of Peeling an Orange,” and the soon to be published, “A Small Country, About to Vanish.” She studied art and nursing in her native Israel, and novel writing in the UCLA Writers’ Program’s Master Sequence. She practices intensive care nursing in a large pediatric facility. She writes (and lives) fiction in Southern California.