Top positive review
A beautiful debut novel from an author who can really write!
on July 26, 2013
If you are a reader who loves the masterful use of language and the power of the well-placed word, this is the novel for you. You will be shocked that you are reading a debut author. However, this book isn't for everyone. It isn't a "thriller" with carefully planted leads and it isn't a ghost story that will leave you on the edge of your seat. There are plenty of ghosts...but they aren't that kind.
Many reviewers have covered the plot, so I don't feel like I have to go into too much into that. The main character, Clare Porterfield, has had a very strange childhood. This book has such gorgeous descriptive writing, as I stated earlier, that it just drew me in. After the first few chapters, I spoke to my husband about how I loved finding hidden gems among all of the novels that I read. It's books like this that truly get me excited about reading. This isn't the formulaic mystery/thriller that you would get from other mainstream authors. There is a much more literary feel to this book that many suspense novels just don't have in them. The author, Elizabeth Black, writes with such passionate feelings that she is able to just suck you into her story and you can't possibly believe that this is the work of a first time novelist. The reader can see in vivid detail the abuse and dysfunction that the main character, Clare, grew up with as you read her thoughts and emotions. As many children who are abused, Clare was taught to believe that everything that happened to her was somehow normal.
Most of the prose is written from Clare Porterfield's point-of-view. It comes from her internal dialogue and thoughts set in the present day and also what she remembers from her childhood. Clare has been taught that her childhood was normal and though she dreads going back to her childhood home, something keeps beckoning her there. Then, when she starts to uncover surprising facts about the supposed death of Stella Carraday and even more about the cursed Carraday family in general she feels as if she might not ever leave. In this story not everyone or everything is as it appears on the outside. As Clare is also remembering things from childhood not everything is exact.
Clare along with other main and supporting characters often are quoted in the book as saying that on the Island history has a way of settling itself as the way the Islanders want to remember. I think this is the heart of the story. So much has happened to Clare and other characters, both good and bad, and instead of remembering as they really were, facts are polished up to hide the cracks and secrets. The question is does this do more harm than good? Who is harmed and who is protected and is it all really worth it in the end?
There were some things that bothered me as a reader that many other reviewers have mentioned. Mainly is the storyline in regards to Stella Carraday. Stella and her mysterious death are even mentioned in the book description, so one would expect a decent amount of the storyline to center around her. However, it doesn't. I was left with more unanswered questions and I feel that Black didn't give that enough attention in her actual story. It felt like she just let that storyline slip away somewhere in her writing process. There were a few other inconsistencies that bothered me but not enough to detract from the author's beautiful writing and elegant prose. I definitely would recommend it to others and will be on the lookout for more of Elizabeth Black's work, because if this was her first novel...it really can get only better from here. This was a solid 4.5 star book for me.