Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Author M.J. Rose uses little known Victor Hugo history for thrilling new novel

            The 19-year-old daughter of Victor Hugo tragically drowned in 1843, an event that sent the French novelist into despair and searching for answers. Like others of his time during the spiritualist movement, the “freethinker” delved into séances in the hope of making a connection with Didine, hearing from the likes of Shakespeare and Dante — even Jesus. 
             Author M.J. Rose uses this little-known history of Hugo as the basis for her compelling novel, “Seduction,” set on the island of Jersey where Hugo lived in exile after Napoleon III’s coup d’etat. Rose invents another spirit coming through to Hugo, a darker one who offers him a tantalizing deal, forming the basis of the novel.
            Mythologist Jac L’Etoile, recovering from her own grief and unusual psychic experiences, arrives on Jersey at the request of an old friend. Together, they piece together mysteries of the island’s Celtic roots that leads them to the lost papers of Hugo and the decision he was forced to make decades before.
            The book examines Carl Jung’s ideas on the collective consciousness, reincarnation and the ability to tap into both, all the while leading readers through a mystery that spans centuries. The ideas presented here were captivating, and the glimpse into Hugo’s life fascinating — he wrote “Les Miserables” on Jersey. The ending left me hanging, however, too many threads failing to connect in a concerted fashion, although the point Rose makes at its conclusion, that people are destined to repeat karma through lifetimes unless they resolve the issues, works.
            If this sounds like a complicated plotline, it is, and too much so. Regardless, “Seduction” makes for great reading, offering viewpoints on life worth contemplating.

New releases
            The spring edition of The Southern Review is out with a short story by James Lee Burke, 21 poets and fascinating photographed dioramas by artist Lori Nix, among much more. The literary journal is published four times a year on the campus of LSU and available online and in bookstores.
            Sam Irwin of Baton Rouge has published “The Ransom of Red Goat” (Kindle, Nook), a comic crime novel about the culture clash between pre-Katrina New Orleans wise guys, poor rednecks, greedy exotic dancers and uneducated Cajun pirates all bent on hitting a big payday. He’s also penned “Love and Death: Two Louisiana Stories” (Kindle, Nook) involving a Mississippi spinster who writes a note to an “Unknown Gentleman” and casts it into the Mississippi River and “An Ugly Day,” which explores the relationship of a young boy and his Cajun grandfather. 
            UL-Monroe senior Luke Holloway has published his debut novel with Publish America titled “Game of Morality,” available on The novel revolves around a journalist and a man suspected of hunting down and punishing ruthless poachers in the heart of urban Africa. “I believe in the subject matter of my book: the story is fresh and original, carries a strong anti-poaching message, as well as the classic and universal themes of friendship and an unconquerable will to survive through the greatest adversities,” Holloway wrote me.
            Home at Last: An Acadian Journey” (Inspiring Voices Publishing Company) by Ollie Porche Voelker is historical fiction suitable for middle graders through adults that tells the story of a young Acadian boy deported from Grand Pré, Acadie, with his family. The family lives in exile in Maryland for 11 years until they move to Louisiana and live along the Acadian Coast just north of New Orleans on the Mississippi River.
            Voelker is a retired teacher and educational diagnostician whose interest in genealogy led her to write the book. She is a descendant of several Acadian families who were deported from Nova Scotia. She was born in Houma and lived in Lafayette while her husband worked as a reporter for The Daily Advertiser. Voelkner is now retired and lives with her husband in Destrehan.
            “I began writing after I retired,” she wrote me. “Two of my nonfiction articles were published in Nature Friend Magazine. An interest in genealogy and an inability to find books of this kind led me to write ‘Home at Last.’
            “I am now working on another historical fiction manuscript about one of my ancestors, Pelagie Benoist, who was deported to France, lived there for 26 years, then came to Louisiana in 1785, a widow with five children,” she added. “I am a seventh generation Louisianan. I also have Thibodeaux and Giroir ancestors who were deported from Grand Pré.”

Book News
            The 10th Saints and Sinners Literary Festival, celebrating LGBT literature and publishers, will be Thursday through Sunday, May 23-26, at the Hotel Montelone and other venues in New Orleans. The Festival features panel discussions and master classes and special events such as literary walking tours. For more information, visit
            The Lafayette Public Library Foundation awarded the Foundation Award to Susan Hamilton at its April 19 luncheon with Pam Stroup receiving the President’s Award. A special recognition was given to Library Director and Essae M. Culver Award recipient Sona J. Dombourian. J.C. Chargois was also remembered as a past Foundation Award honoree. The LPLF also presented a check for $3,000 to the Lafayette Public Library System with the funds purchasing books.

Book events
            17 Poets! Literary & Performance Series presents Megan Kaminski and Jonathan Brown at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, May 23, at the Gold Mine Saloon, 701 Dauphine St. in New Orleans. All shows are followed by an open mic. For information, visit
            Rosemary Smith will read from and sign copies of her children’s books at 11 a.m. Saturday, May 25, at Barnes & Noble Shreveport.
            The May 2013 Edition of the Lafayette Spoken Innovation Poetry Slam & Open Mic Poetry Reading will be from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, May 23, in the Acadiana Open Channel Community Media Multi-Purpose Room of the Rosa Parks Transportation Center, 101 Jefferson St., Suite 100, in downtown Lafayette. The event features the 2013 Lafayette National Poetry Slam Team. There is no charge (donations accepted) and the open mic poetry reading is open to all poets.

Cheré Coen is the author of “Exploring Cajun Country: A Historic Guide to Acadiana” and co-author of “Magic’s in the Bag: Creating Spellbinding Gris Gris Bags and Sachets.” She teaches writing at UL-Lafayette’s Continuing Education. Write her at