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Spotted Lily
Anna Tambour
Prime, 272 pages

Spotted Lily
Anna Tambour
Anna Tambour is a former industrial designer, now full-time writer, with a particular passion for observing other animals' natural behavior. She currently lives in the Australian bush with a large family of other species, including one man.

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Past Feature Reviews
A review by Rich Horton

Anna Tambour's first novel is funny, moving, and true. At the open it seems set to be a satirical account of a somewhat aimless young woman's deal with the devil, and as such it is funny enough. But along the way -- or more probably, from the start, did we but know it -- it becomes an affecting look at an Australian woman's discovery of herself. Oh, and a love story too. With plenty of erotic imagery -- but with most of the actual eroticism suppressed.

Angela Pendergast is a 30ish Australian woman who has moved from her family's ranch in the bush to the big city. She wants to be a Writer, specifically a Bestselling Writer, but she finds it hard to actually get down to writing her Novel. Put simply, she wants to Have Written, not to write. She has a part-time job at a New Age bookstore, and she lives in a house with a few roommates.

Then the Devil shows up. He wants to be the new roomer -- but more than that, he offers her a deal. He'll write her Novel, a guaranteed bestseller. In exchange, of course, for the usual.

So far, so relatively normal. But both Angela and the Devil, whom she names Brett Hartshorn, aren't quite such simple characters. Soon Brett is immersing himself in human literature, trying to decide what makes a bestseller. (Before too long he lights on Barbara Cartland, and who can argue?) Meanwhile Angela is being remade as a glamorous Author, which amounts to accepting her curviness as loveliness, and to abandoning herself to the ministrations of a couple of fashion advisers. Which is a bad description of that portion of the book -- the "advisers" aren't conventionally portrayed at all, and Angela (now called Desirée Lily) is quite a different "Author".

But the book has further twists and turns. It seems what the Devil wants, and for that matter what Angela wants, isn't quite as clearcut as we might have thought. Never is the next plot development what we expect, as Angela learns more and more about things she has ignored, as she indeed becomes a bestselling author, in a very surprising and funny way, and as the Devil, indeed, is delivered his promised soul.

Inevitably one of the things Angela really needs is to return home, to come to an accommodation with the bush she left, with the parents she left. And, finally, she needs to come to one more accommodation -- another striking surprise!

Spotted Lily is quite an impressive debut. Perhaps most of all it is a very funny book, without being what you would call a comedy. It is also a believable and complete portrait of a woman. It is very surprising, and refreshingly so. I thought perhaps the need to always be original led to a bit of a strain for effect right at the close -- I admit I expected a slightly different, more conventional resolution, and I'm not quite sure the final twist really works -- but it's completely honest to the spirit of the book. Anna Tambour, on the strength of Spotted Lily and her earlier story collection, Monterra's Deliciosa & Other Tales &, is one of the most delightful, original, and varied new writers on hand.

Copyright © 2005 Rich Horton

Rich Horton is an eclectic reader in and out of the SF and fantasy genres. He's been reading SF since before the Golden Age (that is, since before he was 13). Born in Naperville, IL, he lives and works (as a Software Engineer for the proverbial Major Aerospace Company) in St. Louis area and is a regular contributor to Tangent. Stop by his website at

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