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92 of 96 people found the following review helpful
on April 2, 2012
Julia Beckett has felt that Greywtehers, a sixteenth century farmhouse, has belonged to her since she was five years old so when she finds the house for sale when she is thirty she impulsively decides to buy it. She falls in love with it immediately but she begins to have strange flashbacks in the home that seem to take her back in time when she was someone named Mariana who lived in the house 300 years ago. Julia finds herself caught up in a mystery of what happened to Mariana and how it connects to her life today.

I had read The Winter Sea by Susanna Kearsley last year and I loved it so much that I did not think I could enjoy another book by this author as much. This book certainly came close to being just as enjoyable as The Winter Sea for me. I loved everything about this book from the very beginning. Julia is a wonderful main character to read about and all of the townspeople that she meets and who become her friends make the story so much fun. The flashbacks are fascinating and I had a hard time putting the book down because I could not wait to see what happened to Mariana, her story is very intriguing.

My favorite part of the book was reading about the small town life of Julia's new home. I loved how all the townspeople gossiped and took such good care of each other and I loved how they would all hang out at the local bar to relax and have fun. It sounded like so much fun I wanted to be living their too!

Julia's love life added some extra fun to the book along with the love story we read about through the flashbacks to Mariana and her lover. There is a nice little twist in the end that I thought was a perfect way to end this delightful book. I would highly recommend this to any romance or time travel fan.
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115 of 123 people found the following review helpful
on April 1, 2002
That one word sums up my elation at finishing this book. I took this book at a leisurely pace because I didn't want to rush it, and it wasn't so engrossing for me at first to have to rush into. I'm glad I did this because this is one that lingers. I read "The Shadowy Horses" first and can honestly say that I enjoyed this one more, I'm currently reading "Splendour Falls", which was I believe before "Mariana", and so far it has me quite intrigued.
Ms. Kearsley does justice to both Mariana and Julia. The blend of History and Romance is dare I say it?.... Sweet. I loved the relationship between Julia and her brother. I love the whole "soul mate" feel in this book. It reminded me of "A Knight in Shining Armor" by Jude Deveraux although this moved at an entirely different pace and the ending brought tears to my eyes. This past weekend I found myself picking up this book again and re-reading some parts. It was JUST THAT GOOD.
Happy Reading
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41 of 44 people found the following review helpful
on September 15, 1999
I can't possibly begin to describe what a wonderful book this is. The author drags you into the story until you become so immersed in it that you can't put the book down. Even after the last page is read the images remain with you for a long time. This is one of those books that can be read and reread and not lose its magic. I have lent Mariana to many of my friends and everyone has loved it. I believe that, with this book, we are seeing the emergence of a great storyteller.
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34 of 36 people found the following review helpful
on March 11, 2011
Susanna Kearsley writes books that are just pure fun to read, and Mariana is no exception. It is the story of Julia Beckett, and a 16th-century house that she is strangely drawn to, though she has only seen it three brief times in her life. The first was at age 5; the second was at age 25. When she stumbles on the house again at age 30, and discovers that it is uninhabited and for sale, she quickly buys it. Feeling a strong tie to the house, she gladly leaves London to take up a new life in a small village.

Julia quickly discovers the reason she has always been so drawn to the house; 300 years before it had been the home of a young woman named Mariana and, through a series of time regression events, Julia realizes that she is Mariana. Julia embraces this knowledge and eagerly steps back in time as much as possible, longing to know more about Mariana and her ultimate fate. As the past gradually unfolds it reveals Mariana's blossoming romance with a neighboring aristocrat, Richard. Over time, and through many regression episodes, Julia learns what happened to Mariana and Richard, and finally realizes that, in order to close the circle and find happiness for herself and closure for Mariana, she must find the present-day man who embodies Richard just as she embodies Mariana.

As I said, Susanna Kearsley's books are truly fun to read, and it is this fun that helped me suspend some expectations of realism that this book demands in order to fully enjoy it. Foremost is the too-glib acceptance -- by Julia and by everyone else who knows of her regressive episodes -- of Julia's embodiment of a 300-year old "ghost" and her frequent slips back in time. Her brother, a vicar, immediately suggests it must be reincarnation, without even batting an eye. Julia herself seems completely untroubled by it, almost as though such things happen to people every day. And then there is Mrs. Hutherson, a neighbor who has some strange psychic sense that enables her to know exactly what Julia is experiencing without even being told, and to know in advance how everything is going to turn out. However, I quickly accepted that this was a fun story, fanciful rather than realistic, and settled back to enjoy the ride.

A hallmark of Kearsley's books is the smooth, witty dialogue and easy friendships she always creates between her characters. People who have only just met slide effortlessly into friendships and relationships that are completely free of conflict, and even total strangers are always friendly. No, this isn't realistic (at least, not in the world I inhabit) but this, too, is part of the fun of a Susanna Kearsley book and provides the "escapist" element. I enjoy slipping into the worlds she creates, wishing I could know such witty and wonderful people myself!

Mariana was a very fast read, a nice break from "weightier" material, and Kearsley throws in a couple of nice little twists at the end. The reincarnation element was done with a light and easy hand; the book doesn't have even the hint of a sinister feeling. I didn't like this one quite as much as "The Shadowy Horses", but I like it better than her others I have read.

On a side note -- what is up with the cover? The photo doesn't go with the book at all. The story is about a young English woman in the 1990s who regresses in time back to the 1600s. The photo -- with its dark-skinned, bare arms -- looks like a woman from the Caribbean. Huh?
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19 of 20 people found the following review helpful
Ms Kearsley handles 21st century woman, Julia Becket's transformational flashbacks into the life of 16th century handmaiden, Mariana, with about as much reality as anyone could expect when dealing with such an improbable happening. She does it well. Never once when reading this story about a savvy young Londoner who chucks her enervating city life for one in a small village, did I think Julia's decision a foolish one or fathom Ms Kearsley's telling of it silly. On the contrary, I found Julia's flashbacks engrossing, enjoying thoroughly Kearsley's meshing of the past and present as well as my own attempts to correctly match the past souls with the present bodies. The hypothesis of the old house retaining the passion of a past event is one that reoccurs in some of Barbara Erskine's novels, particularly "House of Shadows". While Ms Erskine dwells mainly on the supernatural, Ms Kearsley, more satisfactorily uses the metaphysical elements of her story to heighten the romance. Don't hestitate to pick up a copy of this Catherine Cookson Fiction Prize winner; it certainly is well done and worth your time if you favor a good story interjected with realistic romance!
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
on April 3, 2012
I loved Winter Sea and Rose Garden so much I couldn't wait to read this new one by Susanna Kearsley. It met most of my high expectations. The story is unique and time-defying with a beautiful message about love and life. Although it is centered around a sleepy little village, it is anything but slow. Every detail paints a stunning portrait of the multi-dimensional characters as they span centuries. The scenery is so vivid and the people are so real that you could almost mistake it for one of your own memories!

I agree with a previous review that the ending was too abrupt. I really wanted to savor the story at that moment, and there was certain character who I would have loved to have seen more of. Even still, it's one of those books that you can't get out of your head when you're done.
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30 of 38 people found the following review helpful
on March 2, 2011
Let me start by saying that I loved "The Winter Sea"- I tore through it in 3 nights and enjoyed it very much.
So I did some research to see what other books Kearsley had written..."Mariana" is an earlier work with a similar theme of time travel/past life memories...but let's just say she has *vastly* improved her pacing and approach since writing this book! This one falls flat and leaves you feeling like you invested a lot of time reading with not much of a reward. I would NOT recommend this book.


*I did not find Julia's physically acting out her memories remotely believable. It would have been much more feasible if she were revisiting the past in her dreams at night, or even during daydreams. To picture someone walking for miles, swimming, etc. in some kind of a trance without getting harmed is pretty ridiculous.

*The author spends too much time going into pointless details during scenes instead of advancing the story. I found myself skipping pages. I was more than halfway through the book and I still felt that I hadn't learned anything substantial regarding the plot in the past. And there isn't much of a pay-off when you finally do find out what happened. No passionate love scenes and very little witty banter!!! (Boooo)

*I agree with another reviewer who said that Julia's life in the present and the characters in it are fairly boring. Too much time is spent on minor details and scenes that don't go anywhere. You don't care THAT much about her present day life, even though she is supposed to be learning some kind of lesson from the past.

*There is one very disturbing and upsetting scene that was just not necessary to the plot- I found myself sobbing and wishing I hadn't read that part at all.

*The ending was certainly a twist, but it was not very convincing. Definitely a let-down after almost 400 pages.
Overall, the author had good intentions and an interesting premise for a story, but she doesn't make the mark.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on June 27, 2012
This is the third Susanna Kearsley book I've read. My favorite by far is The Winter Sea, where she has ironed out what I consider the weaknesses of Mariana. Second favorite is The Rose Garden. I'm afraid I was pretty disappointed with Mariana, which was the most recent book I read.

SK is a very good writer, but I feel she hadn't quite hit her stride with this earlier effort. She likes to write stories with time travel elements and plot twists at the end. I'm all for that, but this seemed like a tepid story with very little of either dramatic tension or romantic development. Without going into a story synopsis, which you can glean from the other reviews, there was a past time and present time romantic plot. The relationship in the present day romance was frustrating in its lack of development. There was a surprise ending, but the switch was too big, and seemed to happen more just to provide a twist at the end, rather than as a natural result of the plot and characters' development.

Trying *very* hard not to give it away, but the relationship throughout the book with the Hero did not justify the relationship at the end, in my opinion. He just didn't try at all to capture her heart. Brotherly, is what I'd have called him. And there was a theme developed that the Heroine was supposed to see beyond the surfaces, into his heart, in order to have the romance come to fruition. However, he didn't show it to her. I would call the ending awkward and abrupt.

But I believe Ms. Kearsley may have seen the same herself, because she has definitely overcome that problem in her later books. She manages to provide plot twists that are much more believeable, eye-popping, and romantic, IMO.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
I was introduced to Canadian author Susanna Kearsley through a blog interview. Interested enough to visit her Web page, I became intrigued with Mariana and its premise. I don't usually read paranormal, however, the setting for Mariana, a book that's set both in the present and in the time of Charles II, captures the flavor of English country life and interesting village houses to perfection.

Written in first person, the reader is introduced to Julia Beckett, an illustrator of children's books. She first spotted Greywethers, a sixteenth century house in the Wiltshire village of Exbury, when she was five years old.A second visit when she was a young woman, increased her interest, and a third visit as a thirty-year-old, fresh with an inheritance from her aunt, had her purchasing the house on the spot.

Julia encounters several villagers who take a liking to her, including Iain, a Scottish farmer/gardener, Geoffrey de Mornay, owner of Crofton Hall, Vivien, local pub owner and others. However, Julia is unprepared for her introduction to Mariana, a young woman who lived at Greywethers three hundred years earlier. What at first begins as a brief sojourn into another time, becomes more frequent and anticipated as Julia becomes involved in the lives of people long dead. Greywethers seem to be telling Julia something, and she is determined to find out.

Meanwhile, she develops friendships with de Mornay, Iain and Vivien, vacillating between periods when she is Julia and periods when she is Mariana.

This is a love story, beautifully told. The village is real enough to be a character, and the characters both interesting and well-fleshed-out.Ms. Kearsley's writing is dynamic and captivating, the story so interesting I couldn't put it down.

Just when you think you've figured out the plot, Ms. Kearsley delivers a surprise. This is page-turning excellence from the beginning to the exciting conclusion. You'll find each character strong and interesting. I loved the interaction between Julia and her brother, and I loved Mariana's love affair with Richard. I truly felt Julia's dilemma.

Susanna Kearsley deftly weaves both present day and seventeenth century stories together seamlessly. I'll be looking for more stories by this talented author.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on September 21, 1999
I am so ecstatic that I happened to find this book! I read this book in ONE SITTING - could not put it down! Julia / Mariana is a wonderful heroine, Richard (her lover in a previous life) is definitely someone I would love to meet and I'm fascinated by the reincarnation theme. This book makes you FEEL everything that Julia / Mariana feel and felt and, believe me, the ending is a stunner - absolutely fantastic! GET THIS BOOK !
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