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Showing 1-10 of 31 reviews(Verified Purchases). See all 88 reviews
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 really can get only better from here. This was a solid 4.5 star book for me.
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on October 2, 2013
In this novel Elizabeth Black has skillfully created two integrated, rich, and complex portraits: of the city of Galveston and of an extended Southern family. Both have deep pasts, filled with tragedy and secrets; both have sunny public personas and hidden corruption. Clare, the main figure of the novel, has been formed and scarred in ways that she only partially understands at the beginning of the novel, when she returns home after many years up north. Her search to get to the bottom of the anxiety and unhappiness that have plagued her drives the novel. I must say that it develops slowly and at times, you feel that you are floating in a morass of clues and hints that don't seem to be adding up -- but that is exactly what the character is feeling. Then suddenly, meaning flashes on you and the pace picks up and drives you straight through the surprising revelations to the satisfying end. Along the way, I relished the lush descriptions that brought Galveston and its unique culture and mindset to life. Most enjoyable.
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on March 17, 2013
The author's aim to put across a certain mentality of Galveston BOIs is reminiscent of Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil in its description of Savannah natives' peculiarities, to be discovered by the journalist outsider, in Galveston's case by the visiting banker, Ty. Such details help the reader understand how moral and other irregularities, even crimes, are by tradition simply ignored or kept secret by those "Born on the Island," including the inconsequential murder of a major figure in the story. I found an interesting confluence of plot lines in the desire of three women to flee the Island permanently with a secret lover: Stella with her architect; the teen-aged Clare with Patrick; and Eleanor with Will. The more subtle but persistent motif of incest permeates the events recalled or discovered by the narrator: between Fantine and her spouse; between Clare's sister and the sister's biological father, of course between Stella and her father, and if only potentially, between the younger Clare and Patrick. The skillful use of photography as a metaphor, indeed of Clare's Leica, provides a unifying force in the revelations.
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on February 13, 2013
I liked this book. It flowed, and it wasn't predictable. I enjoyed the references as I have lived in Houston and have friends on the island. I can see the insular nature of living that way, and how it becomes your whole world. It wasn't pleasant to see the characters' pain or the family history played out, but it was instructive; and I was glad she went back to learn the secrets.
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on June 28, 2013
If you like Anne Rivers Siddons writings you will enjoy this novel. Living in Galveston, I found the author's descriptions to be very accurate and she captured the feeling of living on the island. The story kept my interest from start to finish.

I look forward to more of Elizabeth Black's writing. I did not feel at all that this book was a waste of my time and have recommended it to others.
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on September 29, 2013
This was a good representation of Galveston in the 90's. For a lifelong resident of Galveston I thought she did a good job of recreating a feel for the atmosphere of "Old Galveston" and a picture of the layout of the City. Story was good up until the end when I didn't feel like she really finished the story.
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on December 18, 2013
The plot was fine but our heroine was so focused that she didn't see what was around her. It is an easy read but very obvious it is a first novel as so many pieces are either left out or not clear. It certainly gives a very strong picture of the Galveston mindset and the fact that those BOI protect each other regardless of right or wrong.
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on August 3, 2014
This is a beautifully written book. Black is a master with phrases you will want to underline and read again and again. The description of the locale puts one in the very middle of it's mysterious boundries while the story within the story leads the reader to search to the end..
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on April 30, 2013
I thought the book moved slowly in the beginning. I spent most of the time reading confused and wondering when the story would come together....then was as if a storm hit.
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on February 13, 2013
This book had excellent descriptions of Galveston. The story was intriguing and drew the reader into the characters. At times there were too many stories going on but the author brought you back to the central idea. I would recommend this book to friends
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