The foundation upon which Ropes is built is very strong. The core idea is endearing and somehow deeply personal. Characters are well written and conveyed, and quite human. The language and style is very well done, and I applaud Mr. O'Hara for carrying it out with enviable consistency. I loved Persephone, and in the beginning I felt that I could hear her creak as she rode the water, and smell the tang of the salt air. Much of this was very beautiful, and I was quite entranced.
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That being said, I did have some thoughts. There is just a little bit of editing to be done, but I make the comment as communication to the author, and not in judgment of the work. Mr. O'Hara seems very knowledgeable about the language he employed, but a small note in my mind wonders, was use of the f-bomb as a curse word prevalent in the times described? I think of it as a more modern swear, but it is entirely possible I err in my thinking.
By the end of the tale, I find I have become somewhat confused. I am not certain if I feel that the story became a bit unfocused from its origin concepts and slid a bit off its foundation, or if I failed to keep pace with the author's craftsmanship and the expressed perspective of its inner workings. Leaving large blanks in the narrative (intentionally), and leaving many of the ropes dangling is a bold and daring move, and one that I can definitely respect, though I had some difficulty fixing my own perspective. From the opening, it read to me as a sort of poetry, not in verse or rhyme, but in the classical sense of romance and a sense of humbly conveyed intimacy with Bordello and the instruments of his almost spiritual memories. Yet it didn't quite continue in this fashion. Yes, that connection flared again here and there, but it moved from a message of the uncommunicated soul, to a narrative of the matters of the past. Alright then, a narrative. Then again, I was confounded. I thought we would be meeting some of the key figures and events of Bordello's life, taking a moment to bring memory to vivid life with each touch of a new rope, and I was willing to follow from one radiant glimpse of a story to another. It could be argued that is what happened, but it began to feel too linear for that mindset to last. Of course, that is not to say that a story should be exactly what we expect it to be. How boring would that be? But, we spent so much time following the story of events aboard the Wild Berry, I found myself wondering, what about Duncan? Who were the other one or two that had such a profound effect on Bordello and his life, yet I could not be certain I had met? I wanted to touch the ropes again, and find another moment or person in time that had a shaping or memorable effect on our Commander. But perhaps this is where my grasp of the intricacies failed, and I should have paid more attention the state of that Commander as we wander with him around Persephone. Clearly, not everything is quite in order, and therefore neither can our narrative be.
I loved the idea of Ropes, and I very much enjoyed what I read. If you are a reader that does not appreciate inferring or letting your imagination fill in those parts of stories that by design go unfinished, then this isn't the right kind of story for you. If you are the kind of reader that enjoys the intelligently written, artfully employed story, some of whose shores are shrouded in impressioned mists of the imagination and perspective, then I recommend taking the time to cast your eye upon Rope, A Life At Sea.