Though Linda Peelle-Haddeman of Paradise has been at sundry times an English teacher and an actress, her real love is libraries, and she's worked for the Butte County Library and now for the Bayliss Library in Glenn County. Her new novel, "Sylvia's Book" ($18.65 in hardcover from Stansbury Publishing in Chico) by Linda Kathleen Peelle, tells the romantic tale of 18-year-old Sylvia Hill who is also a lover of books (and opera).
Though written in the third person, the story makes it clear that this is Sylvia's work, and thus the reader can forgive the rather exuberant if naive optimism expressed by the main character and her tendency to find "the moral of the story" in every experience. After all, she tells us herself that she has been born "with an unusually philosophical nature."
The novel begins in London on Sylvia's eighteenth birthday, toward the very end of the nineteenth century. Her father Elbert, a businessman, is scheduled to sail to Manaus, Brazil, to examine the rubber plantation near the Amazon and to report back to a group of potential investors. But when Sylvia's mother suddenly dies, Elbert can take comfort only in Sylvia's presence. "His grief broke through and he cried, in great wrenching sobs that shook his whole body--this man who had not cried since he was a little boy. Sylvia cried with him, putting her arms around him, able to think of nothing except her loss."
Thus begins a new chapter in Sylvia's life and she accompanies her father on the trip. On board she meets a young missionary doctor named Richard ("like a big brother"). She also meets the manager of an opera house who is on his way to Manaus and then, after disembarking, she is charmed by the "young and very talented tenor, Angelo Rossini," and falls head-over-heels in love with a womanizer.
Eventually she says to herself, "I'm ready to take back my life. The man I loved was not real. He was just an image." After her father's investigation proves dangerous (he survives a gunshot) the two escape to America, symbol of opportunity and a fair reward for hard work. Sylvia at last finds true love based on real friendship. Just what the doctor ordered.