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BOOK REVIEW: The Short Second Life of Bree Tanner: An Eclipse

Novella By Stephenie Meyer

Published in Daily Times / Saturday, June 19, 2010
Reviewed by: Afrah Jamal

The last time Bree Tanner was seen, she was being escorted out of the pages of Eclipse. Stephenie Meyers resurrects Ms Tanner in an Eclipse novella, sends her back to the beginning and hands over the reins of the story. This means that Bree is officially promoted to chief narrator, which is an interesting departure from tradition. The Twilight Saga is almost entirely told from Isabella Swan’s perspective and little is known about Bree before her arrival at the end of Eclipse.

Bree’s perspective is less rosy. With good reason. Her adventures begin in Seattle — the source of all the trouble and Bree is at the centre of the storm. These events have been mentioned in the early days of Eclipse and are central to the storyline.

Eclipse, of course, is the third installment of the highly successful Twilight series. And Twilight is Stephenie Meyers’s masterpiece. While Breaking Dawn — the last book in the Twilight Saga — came out a few years ago, an accompanying piece to the third part featuring Bree Tanner was released in June 2010. This little book is a flash sideways, a detour that eventually rejoins Eclipse in the end.

Bree only enters in the final act of Eclipse and exits soon after. As an extra, her sole purpose then was to provide a little insight into Seattle — the action central. That insight was appreciated but the back-story of a bit player did not concern readers at the time.

She was an insignificant little pawn in a high stakes game. Too trivial to be noticed. A nobody. Turns out, she had plenty to say and fate just did not let her finish.

But now that Meyers has given the bit player a second chance, Bree finds herself in the midst of action vaguely hinted at in Eclipse. It is an advantageous position that allows readers greater room to manoeuvre and an opportunity to explore the lifestyle referenced in Twilight. Also, Bree finally has a chance to complete her story.

Meeting Bree again is surreal. She gets to show off her side of the ‘family’ in Seattle, who are nothing like their well-behaved counterparts in Forks, Washington. Her character goes through several transitions. At first, she is a forlorn figure standing at the periphery — floundering in the dark, indistinguishable from other members of her clan. Then she is a pawn caught in a web of deceit, unable to flee. And, finally, she is an important witness in possession of valuable information. By the time she arrives to take her place at the Clearing, Bree has grown in stature and cannot be dismissed lightly.

Other characters are also shoved into the limelight. The shift in perspective allows readers to immerse themselves into the nightmarish reality of Seattle to observe this motley crew first hand. They are no longer unpleasant statistics. Just unpleasant, albeit with a few notable exceptions. Meyer gives some a shot at redemption. The Short Second Life may be predicable but it does manage to pack in a few surprises. Readers are introduced to new characters they did not know existed. Also, there are a couple of twists they would not have seen coming.

Those already hooked would be unable to resist the urge to pay their favourites another visit. They might be a little disappointed. Getting acclimatised to Bree Tanner’s universe takes time even after having experienced Twilight. There are occasional bursts of sunlight but it stays dark and dreary. There is no silver lining in Bree’s dark cloud. Details from Bree Tanner’s past end up in the soon to be released Eclipse — the movie. Learning about her life is essential to understanding Eclipse, the movie and Eclipse, the book.

The parallel world of Seattle may be a valuable addition to the series but it is nowhere as compelling as the one in Forks. The whodunit part is already over. The reader is 10 steps ahead of the character, most of the time. And it still ends in the Clearing.

The first four books are pure joy; even the prematurely leaked, unfinished draft of Midnight Sun put up on Ms Meyer’s website, which tells the same story from Edward Cullen’s perspective. The companion edition somehow cannot compete with its predecessors and is greeted with forced merriment.

The Short Second Life of Bree Tanner was originally destined to be a part of The Twilight Saga: The Official Guide, but ended up as a standalone edition. The book can be read online for free till July 2010 and hard copies are in stores now. For books purchased in the US (first printing only), a dollar of the proceeds goes to the American Red Cross. The curtain falls on Bree in Eclipse but the short and (bitter) sweet Second Life gives her real closure. The story of Bella and Edward has already ended. Breaking Dawn concluded the series. And Midnight Sun will supposedly end the frenzy.

Little Brown;
Pp 190;
Rs 895

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