I was tempted to give this book five stars, but it's a literary work, and given that I don't typically read literature, I hardly feel qualified to say there is no work within this one's category that exceeds it. It impressed me, though, and that's my benchmark for a four-star book; that it rise above others of its sort that I have read, and mark itself as a rarity.
Like its heroine, the story is capricious and mercurial, vaulting between emotions, times and even tenses like a dancer in the most acrobatic of ballets, a lithe, elegant form delirious with passion and expressive impulse. If you told me that the entire thing had been written in a single sitting, in some mad, 36-hour compulsion that left its author's tendons inflamed and fingers near paralytic with cramps, I would believe you. And if you told me that it had been written over the course of ten years abroad researching every detail of the setting, then meticulously drafting and redrafting and editing each turn of phrase to achieve an impression of reckless spontaneity, I would also believe you. This work either flowed from its author in a cascade of emotion and vitality, or has been precisely crafted to produce that effect. In either case, it left me convinced that C. JoyBell C. is a person wildly alive, struck through with wonderment and awe at the world around us, and intent on communicating those sensations with the rest of humanity.
In Lucy, the author has managed to invest seemingly the entire catalogue of delightful female mannerisms and a spectrum of moods no less bright or fluid than the rays from a prism that might wash across the wave-tossed deck of a ship at sea, if some student of optics were to hold it aloft in demonstration to his fellow passengers. And this despite the fact that the story itself is mostly dark and night-bound, full of tempest-tossed moments that tell us how it feels to be cold and drenched and muddied, both inside and out.
It's a conversational story, in its structure and also in its ambitions. The present action consists almost entirely of two people talking, although their omissions are by and large as important as the words that they speak. But in making us guess and wonder and fill in a great many gaps, the author seems to want to engage the reader in a dialogue -- to make the reader a part of these discussions, with their turmoil of expression and repression, their mysteriously veering and ricocheting passions.
I was thoroughly mesmerized by "Saint Paul Trois Chatueax," and had circumstances permitted, would likely have read it all at one stretch. I hope that the author's life is as vibrant as this work makes Life seem.