- File Size: 828 KB
- Print Length: 290 pages
- Publication Date: January 9, 2014
- Sold by: Amazon Digital Services LLC
- Language: English
- ASIN: B00FJ433QK
- Text-to-Speech: Enabled
- Word Wise: Enabled
- Lending: Enabled
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #505,107 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
|Print List Price:||$11.99|
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The Room Beyond Kindle Edition
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Top customer reviews
The plot is an engaging one featuring an unusual and numerous cast of characters. The narrative is part love story and part supernatural mystery shrouded in Gothic undertones. Elmas intertwines the modern day story of aspiring artist Serena and the dashing Raphael with that of the nineteenth century affair between an abandoned wife, Lucinda Eden, and her ne'er-do-well married neighbor Tristan Whitestone whose sick and forbidden love is the stuff of which nightmares are made. The common denominator in all their lives is the house - and at its core the fact that someone, on this side or the other, just flat out refuses to let go. There is creep factor on every page of this atmospheric offering with a sense of foreboding that eventually gives the reader an electrifying perspective on life, death and the supernatural.
THE ROOM BEYOND should find a willing audience in the fans of movies like The Others or The Innocents or authors like Peter Straub. 3 1/2 STARS
Serena is a lonely young artist, who was raised by her aunt following the tragic death of her parents in a road accident. She is strong and independent but also vulnerable, as she carries the scars (both emotional and physical) of her damaged childhood. She is the main protagonist and narrator of the modern-day story. When she accepts an offer of employment to act as nanny (or more precisely, responsible companion) to Beth, an unusually bright and precocious 4-year-old, in a beautiful historic house on Marguerite Avenue, in London, she enters an eccentric family who cohabit uneasily in an atmosphere dripping with underlying tensions and secrets.
The Victorian narrative features many tragic characters but the main one is Miranda, a plain woman desperately in love with her handsome husband, who has married her strictly to redeem his unsavoury past in India.
It takes a lot of skill to manage the two threads that are enriched by many common elements and interrelating events, but Stephanie Elmas capably handles the challenge, mastering her material and delivering a strong and credible recreation of Victorian sensational writing. Fans of this genre will find much to hold their interest, as this novel demands a fair amount of attention and involvement from the reader but repays all efforts with compelling twists and unexpected developments. As the novel delves in the supernatural, there are many elements that require the reader to suspend belief, and attempting to apply strict logic will only interfere with one's enjoyment of the plot.
There are many characters to follow but each one has been imbued with enough personality and uniqueness that keeping them in mind becomes effortless. The author also does a good job of rendering both modern dialogue and the more formal and stilted exchanges of the historical sections in ways that feel period appropriate and without wild and jarring exaggerations.
The stories are full of elements of the horrific, supernatural and ghoulish, interactions with ghostly entities and a glimpse into the mind control craze that gripped Victorian sensibilities, but they also touch on the present-day predicament of old families trying to preserve the architectural heritage of crumbling old mansions that are as beautiful as they are impractical. In fact, three houses along a leafy old London street and a gloriously disintegrating mansion in Wiltshire are at the heart of the narrative and almost take on a life of their own.
The pace is sedate, becoming urgent as events dictate and turning back to meditative. The recurring romantic content is handled with great skill: the action is clearly depicted without ever descending into the gratuitously graphic. There is a fair bit of tragedy and human suffering and a chance to identify and sympathize with the particular problems of each of the main protagonists. Elmas tells a compelling story of human passions, greed and folly without passing judgement and it is possible to feel compassion even for the evil-doers and the misguided, and we are left to apply our own standards. The ending is certainly not sugar-coated but satisfactorily optimistic. All in all, a suspenseful read that kept me interested throughout and surpassed my expectations.
The plot itself is excellent, and the two-part structure is crucial to the solution of the mystery regarding a certain house on the street. I don't want to "spoiler" the book, so that is as much as I can say.
There is one flaw with this book and I think it is a pretty major flaw. The storyline set in the Victorian era feels exactly the same as the contemporary storyline. On a few occasions I forgot that the story set in the past was supposed to be in the past. I tried to work out why, and I came up with a couple of things. First - nearly all of the descriptive passages occur in the first chapters, which are the contemporary storyline. Then the story shifts - supposedly - to the past within the same house. And there are virtually no descriptive passages at the start of the Victorian storyline because we are in the same house. Except - the house would NOT be the same. The furniture would be different, rooms would be used for slightly different purposes, the decor would be different, the light fittings would be very different, there would be more servants in the Victorian house because there would be more actual housework (no electrical appliances, remember?),and so on.
And then there are the characters. Miranda Whitestone, supposedly a woman in 1892, thinks and behaves like a modern woman. In fact most of the characters in the Victorian ear story do, including Miranda's husband. Even the glamorous femme fatale, Lucinda Eden, feels too "modern". Pretty much the only difference between Miranda's home and the "modern" version is that Miranda does not have air conditioning - which hardly makes it feel Victorian.
This lack of any sense of difference between the two period makes it hard to track what is happening when, and the storylines sometimes blur into one another. It does not help that in both time periods there is one man, a woman who wants that man, and the other woman she is afraid is taking him from her. Every now and again I had to stop and organise things in my head to keep the two plotlines separate. It is a shame because it detracts from one of the strongest points of the book overall - the way the author managed to echo and contrast events within the two stories against one another. For this to work, the different time periods HAVE to "feel" different so one can keep track. Instead, the two timelines blend into one another and the echo/contrast within the plots just ends up adding to the confusion.
Nevertheless, the writing is excellent, both storylines are intriguing within their own right, and the endings ties them in with one another beautifully. If the Victorian time period had been written with an eye to keeping the period details in mind, this would have been a great book - I would not have been surprised to see it up with the big sellers. So close!
But it is still a good book, and well worth the read. I am going to keep an eye out for future books written by Stephanie Elmas.
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