DON NOBLE: Novel successfully follows author’s familiar formula – News – Tuscaloosa News

There seems to be evolving a book we can call a Dana Gynther novel.

The protagonist will be a female, or several females. She or they will face difficulties, and, to some to degree or other, prevail.

The Birmingham novelist Kerry Madden explains that she first makes the reader fond of the heroine, then puts her up a tree and throws rocks at her.

It’s like that.

The setting will be exotic, interesting, probably European, and the narrative will extend over considerable time. Gynther herself, after a childhood in Auburn and earning a master of arts degree in French literature at the University of Alabama, has lived with her husband in Valencia, Spain, for many years.

Gynther’s “The Woman in the Photograph” is the story of beautiful fashion model Lee Miller, who goes to Paris in the ’20s, becomes the surrealist Man Ray’s mistress and a recognized avant-garde photographer, whether he liked it or not.

Gynther’s first published novel, “The Paris Crossing,” takes place on a luxurious French ocean liner as three women, from three classes, become acquainted and we learn their stories in flashbacks.

Her newest, “The Admiral’s Baths,” is in the pattern, only more so.

The novel opens in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, in April of 2011. Rachel Cardon, 47, divorced for 10 years, has a lot to cope with. Her present boyfriend, Todd Russell, dumps her three days before they are to leave for Spain for the summer.

Rachel’s son, Nick, is glad. He hates Todd anyway; we will learn why.

Her injured heart is pushed to the rear of the line as the tornado strikes Rachel’s neighborhood, damaging her house badly. This section will take many readers back, as Gynther describes the terror and the outpouring of generosity, kindness and community spirit.

Nick, 22, an architecture student at Auburn University, steps up. He will oversee the house repairs and Rachel can still make her research trip to Valencia, solo.

Rachel is a cultural historian, specializing in everyday…

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