87 of 96 people found the following review helpful
A Tragic, Enthralling Romance,
This review is from: Green Darkness (Hardcover)
In the 1960's, young Celia Marsdon travels to England to visit the ancestral lands of her husband, Richard Marsdon. Once they get there, things get strange--Richard begins acting like an utter jerk, while Celia begins to have strange fits and visions. Celia's mother has befriended a Hindu guru, Dr. Akananda, and it is he who figures out what's wrong with the young couple. The troubles of the present time can only be solved by revisiting a tragedy from the past.
And so the older story begins, in the reign of Edward VI, as lovely young Celia de Bohun and her loving aunt take up residence with a grand family as "poor relations". Celia is a fascinating and "real" character, full of contradictions and human failings. She is headstrong and impulsive; dreaming of true love but entranced by male flattery; innocent but coquettish. She creates a scandal when she falls in love with the family chaplain, Stephen--who in turn desires Celia but does not want to break his vow of chastity. They part--but never forget each other. Time passes; Edward's persecution of Catholics gives way to Mary's persecution of Protestants; the family fortunes rise and fall; sympathetic characters harden into detestable ones (I weep for you, Magdalen!). Anya Seton draws us deeply into her world, filled with schemes, ambition, and lies; and with ghosts, madwomen, superstitions, and a particular, notorious Celtic witch. And when Celia and Stephen finally meet again, nothing can stop the power between them. It ends tragically, and we cry; we've been so sucked into the Tudor story that we forget we're headed back to the 1960's to resolve it all.
One gripe: It always gets on my nerves when authors of historical fiction insert modern beauty standards into their novels. I didn't like the treatment of the overweight girl, Mabel. This story is supposed to be taking place in a time when "pleasingly plump" was a compliment and not a euphemism. Had Mabel really lived, I doubt she would have been thought of so derisively. However, this gripe is sort of offset by the kudos I must give to Seton for having a sympathetic gay character in her novel--especially considering the date of publication. Even current romance writers (who should know better) still tend to assign homosexuality to the most depraved of villains. So, I grumble about Seton's treatment of the overweight, but I'm impressed with her treatment of the gay man in the story.
Overall: An enthralling story. Starts slow, but by the time you get to the halfway point, you won;t be able to put it down.
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Initial post: Jun 20, 2011 10:57:47 PM PDT
S. Arnold says:
Your comment about modern beauty standards is quite correct. However, Mabel was an actual person, and so was her brother - think his name was Anthony. Not sure about his wife, but I think she was too. You can look up Mabel and Anthony Browne on Wikipedia if you're interested.
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