TANTALUS by Jane Jazz

When my son suggested I share my reviews on Twitter I couldn’t comprehend how that would work. Two years later I’m still learning how to navigate this cyberworld (by the way, if anyone can explain what a #hashtag is and how to use it, in a way that doesn’t fry my nerve endings, I’ll be happy to name one of the characters in my next novel after you) and yet, I’m thrilled to be a part of it. Without Twitter I would never have learned about English author Jane Jazz and her debut novel, Tantalus.

The fascination with the unknown and the improbable that is embedded in the foundation of Tantalus reminded me of Susan Hill’s chilling ghost story The Woman In Black.

The room was dimly lit by long fingers of cool moonlight, and there was something…intangible…in the air. 

I was immediately filled with the possibility of magic and charmed by how Jane Jazz formulated the kind of romance we only dream about. Through Tantalus she makes the impossible probable.

Like Pyramus and Thisbe, Thomas and Sylvia are separated by a physical barrier. Unlike those star-crossed lovers Thomas and Sylvia meet in different times, 1924 and 1975 respectfully. It is improbable, but not unbelievable, especially once they start exchanging letters.

I will happily retire to bed, for only in sleep can I step through your torn sky of time, and into a land where strawberries grow in snow and Sylvia can lie in my arms. 

Tantalus sweeps us away like all powerful love stories do. Does the honeymoon last? Of course not. Sylvia and Thomas battle the realities of their situation and the improbable re-enters the readers’ mind. Then Jane Jazz excavates the newest chink in the story and the reader is swept away all over again.

In a real dark night of the soul, it is always three o’clock in the morning.

This quote from F. Scott Fitzgerald opens Chapter One. While it portends the event that will upend our heroine’s life, it also filters into the reader’s psyche, priming them to leap where they normally would hold back. Choosing to set the interactions between Thomas and Sylvia in the wee hours of the morning speaks to our secret desire to come face to face with whatever is ultimately holding us back. This is the real magic of Jazz’s debut; a story that shows us how the union of two souls transform these people into the artists they were destined to be. Who isn’t intrigued by that?

As engaged as I was there were times when I felt cheated as a reader, especially in the scenes between Sylvia and her best friend Clemmie. Because of the way these scenes unfold, it dampens the impact of the events that lead to a major upheaval in Sylvia’s life. Yet, in the end, none of those blips mattered, for the overriding premise of an artist foraging through the emotional minefield of life was a pay off I couldn’t live without.

Tantalus is a love story that spans time on par with Wuthering Heights, without the cruelty. A true romance for the artist’s soul.