What exactly is a fairy-tale? Does it have to take place in a different world, or can it relate to the place from which you come? With Gone are the Leaves readers are able to envision an innocently romantic fairy-tale set in the lush landscape of Scotland and France. The simple plot of boy and girl childhood friends turn love interests is something universally known. It is something many young adult fans have come to enjoy and expect to read.
Young, and naïve Deirdre has been friends with Feilamort since he moved to Scotland from France. With her artistic skills in sewing and an eye for colour, and Feilamort’s passion for song, these two are a well paired couple. The only things holding them back are their pasts. Deirdre knows she is an employee of the lady of the castle and that is her status in life. Feilamort’s life is not quite so black and white. Being an orphan and not knowing who his parents are makes his future and destiny more uncertain. His only direction in life is the one his music teacher, Signor Carlo, paves for him.
Signor Carlo has a life plan for his young prodigy. But it comes at a price for the young Feilamort which neither he nor Deirdre believe is fair. This decision to preserve Feilamort’s future as a singer is what shifts their friendship to a night of romance since it will be his one and only. Deirdre may not have expected any consequences from their actions that day, but the story, and their friendship, would have ended there if something did not happen.
As the story develops, it can only be assumed that the two lovers will be split up. Deirdre’s mother sends her to a convent to refine her stitching skills and Feilamort continues his lessons with Signor Carlo. The rest of the book needs to be read to see how both cope with their enforced distance apart, and to see whether their love is true.
Very few descriptions are given of the characters. The only details of Deirdre forthcoming are that she has a “freckled nose, wild curls and tearful brown eyes”. Given this information you might be able to picture her face, albeit not in any vivid way. However, this does give you the licence to imagine the characters in any way they would like. When reading, you also immediately notice the simplicity of the writing style, but might stumble across words with which you may not be familiar: fiteichtie, corbie, sauch, and mizzles just to name a few. There is a glossary with helpful definitions in the back of the novel for those who need it.
The writing and dialogues are rather bland, and it is easy to miss the importance of certain – even major – events if you are not concentrating; what should have been the most passionate scene in the book, for example, only occurs in only a few sentences. You almost have to go back and reread what just happened to make sure you are on the same page as the writer.
This book is ideal for a young adults looking for a happy ending fairy-tale, but not for a more mature audience looking for more depth and complexity. Most readers would find it lacking a certain element of truth and passion since it is, perhaps, under-sexualised compared to the more mainstream romance novels that has taken over a generation by storm. On the other hand, younger readers would probably appreciate the simplicity of the writing and the novel’s historical aspect. It may also convince them that they are able to dictate their future and that love can come from the most unlikely of places. It is, in fact, a fairy-tale.