A newcomer arrives in Vallerosa, a tiny, self-sufficient, and overlooked European country. Through her eyes we see some Animal-Farm-esque bureaucracy and authoritarianism, as well as the hidden niches where things really get done.
I thought the symbolism and use of characters was smart – in an obvious way. I loved the ending, where we see that the citizens are willing to sacrifice personal time for the good of their country – even without pay or recognition. I liked that the president was made to literally sweat in fear that he wasn’t living up to his constituents’ expectations.
But I didn’t like the slams on America, nor the stereotyped American characters. And I didn’t like how so much of the story had to be contrived — and then the ending seemed to swing so far from the way the plot was heading. I almost feel like the author was trying to prove a point to a hostile audience. I don’t want to be lectured for several pages on the necessity of honeybees or the reasons why a wife might be too tired to spend time with her husband. I read for escapist pleasure, so a lecture in my fiction just ain’t my bag, baby.
I think maybe more could have been done with the museum in the story – or the title should’ve been changed to something tea-related. And I definitely wished the tea had more magic.
All in all, a bit long-winded and idealistic, but definitely an interesting commentary on society, government, roles of men and women, education, employment, and agriculture. The character development was terrific, as was the dialogue. And though I’m not sure it was important to the story, I was very, VERY happy to see all that pastry finally available for breakfast.