Book review: ‘Sapphire Chameleon’ by Frieda Klein
Lake Tahoe Action
“Sapphire Chameleon” will catch your eye at first glance. Author Frieda Klein, a Tahoe City artist and former art instructor at Sierra Nevada College, splashes the front cover of her novel with a generous array of colors and movement that immediately invite curiosity. The provocative display provides a perfect segue to the cacophony of raw emotions inside. The flaunting of color and vibrant patterns could symbolize the steamy love scenes, or, perhaps, the shadows, shapes and imagery reveal the anger and confusion of Julia, the novel’s protagonist. In any case, the cover introduces a visual arrangement that is open for interpretation. The characters seem familiar, maybe because they are flawed, a shared human trait we all recognize. Klein reveals the character Otto is loosely based on her friend and mentor, the late author Henry Miller. The story is fast moving, with new revelations disclosed often unexpectedly. It will strike a chord in more than a few readers who are bound to see their reflection in the ink. “In essence this is a story of self-discovery,” Klein says in her synopsis. Indeed it is.
Klein sets her story in San Francisco in the early 1960s, a time when blatant male chauvinism and women’s oppression flourished. Julia marries Ralph, an attorney with money and status but no regard for her. He treats her like a child with little respect for her opinions or awareness that perhaps she might possess an intelligent thought. Without a lucrative livelihood of her own and with three children, not unlike many women of that era, Julia is trapped in a joyless marriage. An avid reader with a passion for painting, she immerses herself in her artwork and suppresses her sorrow in the world of books, favoring the philosophical teachings of author Otto Marlton. In spite of her efforts, the marriage fails. As it turns out, not only is Ralph a chauvinist, he’s a philanderer. Julia meets Marlton, the man she sees as her soulmate through his books, quite by accident. The chemistry between them is immediate and mutual. The sapphire wedding ring placed on Julia’s finger on that beautiful day in Big Sur symbolizes the devotion and affection they share for one another. She eagerly anticipates living out her happy ending, but a sudden shift dictates it’s not meant to be. Julia must maneuver the rocky and unpredictable path of life to embark on her personal journey to self-discovery. In time, like a chameleon, she transforms, blossoming into who she was always meant to be.
Critics might say this story will appeal only to women, but a common thread is worth exploring. The story broaches multiple topics, including women’s rights, dysfunctional families, the onset of the AIDS epidemic, sexual abuse and the joys and pitfalls of motherhood. Affluence and greed have a place in the plot, and there are references to the cultural climate and social unrest of the ‘60s. Some will relate to many aspects, while others may not relate to any, but we join together in one area — the pursuit of happiness. It’s a universal longing to which we all aspire. Often the journey to find it is fickle, leading to a surprising awakening, just as it did for Julia.
Gloria Sinibaldi resides part-time in South Lake Tahoe. Her short story, “A Means To Survive,” appears in “Tahoe Blues.” She is a job coach, trainer and author. Contact her at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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