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The Seduction of Water (Ballantine Reader's Circle) Paperback – December 30, 2003

3.9 out of 5 stars 58 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Carol Goodman's admirable second novel, The Seduction of Water, has much in common with her bestselling debut, The Lake of Dead Languages. Both feature heroines who are at crossroads in their lives and who choose to move backward and inward. In the first novel, the main character returns to teach at the woodsy private school where she had been a scholarship student, triggering the horrible repetition of the violence that had marred her senior year. In The Seduction of Water, the heroine returns to the woodsy hotel in the Catskills where her parents had worked, in the hope of uncovering her dead mother's secrets. Somehow, the book doesn't feel like a reiteration of the earlier novel, perhaps because the tone throughout is lighter and more sure.

Iris Greenfeder is a 36-year-old barely published New York writer and teacher whose long-term boyfriend, an artist, sees her schedule as strict and therefore will not spend the night, because he likes to get up and paint first thing every morning. When one of Iris's stories about her mother is picked up by a small literary journal with a well-connected editor, things start to happen for her. She becomes convinced that a summer out of the city, working as manager of the old hotel, will give her the perfect setting in which to pen a memoir of her writer mother, as well as an opportunity to look for the rumored manuscript of her mother's final book. But there are those who are just as determined to keep the dead woman's secrets in the grave. Only mildly suspenseful, and relying too much on coincidence, The Seduction of Water isn't the page-turner that Goodman's debut was, but patient readers may find it a richer and more satisfying novel overall. --Regina Marler --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Publishers Weekly

An aspiring writer delves into the long-buried mystery of her novelist mother's death in this silky-smooth novel by the author of The Lake of Dead Languages. Water, from Iris Greenfeder's perspective, is the Hudson River. She has a view of it from her five-story walkup in New York City's westernmost Greenwich Village, and it shimmers in the distance from the Equinox, the Catskills hotel where Iris grew up. Her father, Ben, was the manager at the Equinox; her mother, Kay, a former maid, wrote two fantastical novels there. Driving the plot is the not-so-simple question: did Kay write a third novel, and is it hidden at the Equinox? Back at the hotel for the summer, Iris plans to write the story of her mother's life and search for the missing manuscript. As she attempts to solve the mystery, she is abetted and thwarted by a large cast of characters, including her mother's famous literary agent, the mega-millionaire owner of a hotel chain, the daughter of a famous suicidal poet, an all-knowing gardener and the delicious Aidan Barry, whom Iris meets while he's still in prison. The novel's first-person, present-tense narrative fosters intimacy, though it somewhat undercuts suspense. More effective is the use Goodman makes of the Irish myth of the selkie-half-seal, half-woman-as told by Iris's mother. Mystery, folklore, a thoroughly modern romance, a strong sense of place and a winning combination of erudition and accessibility make this second novel a treat.
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

Product Details

  • Series: Ballantine Reader's Circle
  • Paperback: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Ballantine Books; Reprint edition (December 30, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0345450914
  • ISBN-13: 978-0345450913
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.8 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (58 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #718,152 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Carol Goodman graduated from Vassar College, where she majored in Latin. After teaching Latin for several years, she studied for an MFA in Fiction. She is the author of fourteen novels, including The Lake of Dead Languages and The Seduction of Water, which won the 2003 Hammett Prize, and, under the pseudonym Juliet Dark, The Demon Lover, which Booklist named a top ten science fiction/fantasy book for 2012. Her YA novel, Blythewood, was named a best young adult novel by the American Library Association. Her books have been translated into sixteen languages. She lives in the Hudson Valley with her family, and teaches creative writing at The New School and SUNY New Paltz.

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
Admittedly, this is a good, engrossing book. I am not going to recount the story because it's already recounted in many other reviews but I'm writing about what I think of the book since it may help other avid readers decide whether to give this book a try. First of all, if you'd read and like the Lake of Dead Languages by the same author then I urge you to try reading this. However, if you are still skeptical, then I will give you the following comparison pointers:
First of all, the Lake of Dead Languages is a thriller all the way. The story keeps you reading from the beginning to the end and there's no question at all that it's a page-turner. On the other hand, The Seduction of Water is a little more 'classic', the story somehow not moving as fast. This is because it is also a love story. Her descriptions are still chilling and morbid, but the reader is not as tempted to turn the page as much as the last book. When I read the book I feel that only half of the book is an element of 'mystery'.
If you are looking for a very fast page-turner , then this is not the book for you. In that case, read The Lake of Dead Languages.
Don't get me wrong. This is still a great book with a great storyline, it just goes slower, weaved with a love story that gives it a more 'classic' than a 'mystery' feel. However, the ending is suspenseful and I still highly recommend the book!
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By A Customer on January 3, 2003
Format: Hardcover
Once again, Carol Goodman has woven a world filled with complex, multi-dimensional characters, an absorbing plot, and a masterful use of language that made my time reading this book magical and something apart from my daily life. I often have four or five books going at once, but from the moment I picked up Seduction of Water, I was unable to leave the Hotel Equinox until reluctantly turning the last page.
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Format: Paperback
Several years ago, I read Goodman's wonderful novel The Lake of the Dead Languages and it was one of those books that just stuck with me. I gave it to my husband to read and, shortly thereafter, stumbled upon this book and wondered why I hadn't yet read anything more by Goodman. While I found this book to be another lovely and lyrical tale, I don't think I liked it as much as The Lake of the Dead Languages, though that's not meant to be a criticism.

As with her previous novel, Goodman works several themes into the novel. The main character of this novel is similar to the main character in that previous work in that they are both women who appear to be in a sort of stasis. Iris Greenfeder, the protagonist of this novel, is somewhat aware that she is a soul in flux but she doesn't quite seem to know how to shake herself out of her torpor. Iris herself puts it best when she notes that her life is a series of "all buts": all but thesis, all but married, all but a writer. Her character exemplifies the trap that we all fall into in which we yearn for the things we really want in life but stay where we are because we know it, which therefor makes it safe. Unfulfilled in her career and her relationship, she is, however, reluctant to be proactive and seek what it is she desires.

A lot of her uncertainty is tied to the mysterious death of her mother, who was registered as another man's wife when she died in a hotel fire when Iris was young. Before her death, Iris's mother had written two of the planned three novels of trilogy and Iris returns to the hotel where she grew up, ostensibly to work on a memoir for her mother while seeking the manuscript for her mother's third novel.
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Format: Paperback
This book has them all.
It is the story of a woman, Iris Greenfeder; an almost writer, an almost professor, and an almost wife. An urge to write a story told to her nightly by her mother, leads to her quest to find out more about her late mother, who died in a hotel fire, registered under a different name. Under the pretenses of writing her mother's memiors and looking for her mother's lost manuscript, Iris becomes manager at the hotel she lived in as a child. She finds love in an unlikely place, as well as a renewed love for the hotel she grew up in as her parents worked in the hotel.
The writing in this book is beautiful. The imagery in both the fairy tale and the rest of the novel, jumps out of the book and paints a picture of the time and the place. The author's characters are real people- not "fairy-tale" people who live perfect lives. Every time I had to put the book down, I could not wait to be able to pick it back up again to finish it. It was a very satisfying story- and I will be sure to check out Goodman's first book- and her new book.
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Format: Paperback
Iris Greenfelder is trying to make peace with herself, her life, her choices but can't quite move forward with out going back to her past. She begins inquiring on her mother who passed away in a tragic hotel fire when Iris was ten. This fire was mysterious and left Iris with a sense that somethings gone off kilter. So Iris begins her own journey of discovery as she slowly uncovers her mothers secrets.

The picturesque descriptions of the Catskill Mountains in which some of the book takes place are breath taking and will seduce you into inquiring on a vacation in NY. The characters are wonderfully flawed and you'll be able to identify with their struggles as Iris uncovers her mothers secrets.

I truly enjoyed this book and loved the deep connection Ms. Goodman evokes between Iris and her mother.

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