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The Drowning House

2.88 of 5 stars 2.88  ·  rating details  ·  1,466 ratings  ·  308 reviews
A gripping suspense story about a woman who returns to Galveston, Texas after a personal tragedy and is irresistibly drawn into the insular world she’s struggled to leave.

Photographer Clare Porterfield's once-happy marriage is coming apart, unraveling under the strain of a family tragedy. When she receives an invitation to direct an exhibition in her hometown of Galvesto
Hardcover, 268 pages
Published January 15th 2013 by Nan A. Talese / Doubleday a division of Random House, Inc.
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Community Reviews

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The book jacket synopsis describes a story about a heartbroken woman returning home to Galveston after suffering an unspeakable tragedy and the deterioration of her marriage, and a hundred-year-old mystery about Stella, who lived in the old mansion across the street and was found hanging with her hair wrapped around the chandelier in the aftermath of a devastating hurricane in 1900.

I made it to page 132 before abandoning it. Up to page 132 there are infrequent references to Stella, so infrequent
Jan Pelosi
I didn't want to HIDE my review, but there are some spoilers here, so STOP reading now if you don't want to see them.

I so wanted to love this book. I am fascinated with the 1900 Great Hurricane, and my husband is from Galveston (a BOI) so we spend a lot of time there. I wish Elizabeth Black would have sent this out for some sort of reading focus group (if they even exist) and then tweaked her story a bit. It really could have been a great book, but it's just not.

Elizabeth's Black's writing styl
I elected to read this book because I love the city of Galveston and the rich history of the island. I looked forward to a mystery surrounding the 1900 hurricane. Instead I read a sad tale of dysfunctional families and unfinished stories.

Black is advertised as an exciting new literary voice. I can see why Gay Talese is excited about the writing of this first time novelist. Her writing is compelling and lyrical. Her writing style is the sort that critics and publishers of literary fiction seem to
This book was hyped for its dual story of Clare, a photographer who, after a personal tragedy, returns to Galveston to direct an exhibition and begins to question the story of a girl whose body was found after the 1900 Great Hurricane, her hair entangled in the family chandelier. Intriguing, right? Wrong. Elizabeth Black devotes her words to descriptions of Galveston rather than characters, dialogue, or plot. Her descriptions are beautiful but anything related to character and plot is vague and ...more
Eileen Granfors
Elizabeth Black's debut novel, "The Drowning House," is set in Galveston, Texas, in the present day with memories of the past. The protagonist, Clare, has come home to The Island after many years away. She's been asked to work on some archival photographs since she is a renowned photographer. She is happy to flee the debris of her marriage, which fell apart in the aftermath of a terrible accident.

Once in Galveston, Clare finds her mother, Eleanor, the same as always: prim, busy, quick to critici
Oct 14, 2012 Frank rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Everyone who loves carefully crafted prose
I'm reading The Drowning House for the second time, something I rarely do - at least in the realm of contemporary fiction, but this book merits a second go. This time I'm reading a little more carefully and acquainting myself with the things the author uses to capture the atmosphere of Galveston so evocatively. One example: in the opening pages the narrator, a photographer, is preparing for her return to the city of her youth where she will be curating an exhibition of Galveston photographs:
Jan 27, 2013 Cindy rated it 1 of 5 stars
Shelves: 2013
Here is a story that had a lot of potential, but words got in the way. Elizabeth Black managed to describe every little detail and emotion possible in a book's setting.

Here is a sample: "There was no sidewalk in the sense that most people understand it. Smooth concrete might extend for thirty feet, only to erupt suddenly where old, broken slabs thrust upward like the prows of sinking ships, the spaces between them lively with weeds. There were stretches of homemade pebble aggregate pocked with b
Elizabeth Black is a poet. I suspected as much reading descriptions such as, "Around her, I felt as though every minute was already full, that all the air in any room that contained us both had already been used up." and "that the air and water are often so close to body temperature you sometimes feel, if it weren't for the accident of your skin, you could melt into either one." She can evoke all of the senses with her lovely words. Black describes Galveston so the reader experiences the island. ...more
I have reviewed this book; the review can be found here, on Booklikes, and here, on my blog. However, I will no longer be posting reviews on Goodreads, due to its recent changes to terms of service and, far worse, the boneheaded and incomprehensible way it is proceeding with the new policy. Deleting content, almost randomly, and without warning (whatever they may have said) is wrong, and a half-hearted apology later doesn't make it all better. Failing to provide a sitewide announcement is wrong. ...more
Elizabeth Black’s haunting suspense novel, “The Drowning House” follows photographer Clare Porterfield as she journeys back to her home of Galveston, Texas. Clare is tormented by the death of her young daughter in a tragic accident. Struggling to gain a foothold on life she accepts an invitation by wealthy businessman Will Carraday to direct an art exhibit chronicling the history of the island.

Back home after a decade away, Clare relives painful memories of her past that often circle around the
This review contains spoiler alerts.

When I picked it up, I figured I would love this book -- but what I read about the book on the inside front flap was very different from what the book turned out to be.

At first I thought, Okay, so here's a narrator with serious marriage issues (separated from husband after loss of their child). I was on board; the passage about the death of their daughter was very moving. And then I realized she had mommy issues, very complicated daddy issues, long-lost boyfr
Alesha Leveritt
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, and you will be shocked that you are reading a "first-time novelist." But this book isn't for everyone. It isn't a "thriller" will 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.

It IS an incredibly beautiful story about identity, that which is determined by our origin
Elaine Colwell
In Elizabeth Black’s atmospheric Drowning House, the City of Galveston does, indeed, play as large a role as any individual does. This is not the kind of novel, however, peopled with predictable characters everyone has met before. Galveston is complex--graceful and gaudy at the same time, a small city with a big, almost looming past. As many fine novelists have, Black plumbs the chemistry between the place and its inhabitants. In this case, the question of whether you live in Galveston or it liv ...more
Nov 27, 2012 Kurt rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommended to Kurt by: Amazon Vine
This debut novel perfectly communicates the culture of Galveston in the summer of 1990, while it also tells a compelling mystery story that delves into the nature of adult homecomings. Plot-wise, the story follows a young photographer who returns to her island home for a new work project after a family tragedy strains her marriage past its breaking point, and, as protagonists tend to do in this kind of story, she uncovers some mysteries, both in her island's past and in her family's present. For ...more
The Drowning House
By Elizabeth Black
4 stars
pp. 268

I was compelled to pick up Elizabeth Black's novel The Drowning House with the setting in Galveston and which claimed to investigate family secrets going back to the great hurricane of 1900 which claimed so many lives, one being Stella Carraday whose body was said to be found hanging by her hair from the chandelier. Since reading Isaac's Storm by Erik Larson, I have been interested in anything I could find about it and I love the idea of uncoveri
Jaime Boler
Jan 15, 2013 Jaime Boler marked it as to-read
Book Review: The Drowning House by Elizabeth Black

The Drowning House by Elizabeth Black (Nan A. Talese; 288 pages; $25).

“If there was a sign, I missed it” begins Elizabeth Black’s highly publicized debut, The Drowning House. Yea, if there was a sticker on the front of this book proclaiming it tired and tedious, I, too, missed it.

Photographer Clare Porterfield has suffered a huge blow, and her hometown of Galveston has called her home. Clare battles some tough inner demons, as she grapples with
Mallory Heart Reviews
Nov 07, 2012 Mallory Heart Reviews rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommended to Mallory Heart by: Great Minds Think Aloud
Review of The Drowning House
Reviewed for Great Minds Think Aloud
4 stars

I call this in the category of “women’s lit” or “beach reads” and no, not just because the majority of the novel is set on Galveston Island. It’s the kind of slow-paced novel with multiple characters and multiple plotlines which makes the reader want to take it slow and just enjoy-perfect for a vacation or “beach” read. There’s a lot of history in this novel: history of the island and of the community; history of the historic
Many reviewers describe this as "atmospheric" and that is certainly true. The setting is Galveston and the place is felt in every sense. It's very Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil. I had no idea of the history and quirks of the island and the author really brings it to life.

In the end, I think that's the problem. Galveston dominates and overshadows the characters. I didn't care about Clare's journey or her past. Her loss and her crumbled marriage are so abstract as to almost not be believ
When I first read the synopsis for Elizabeth Black’s The Drowning House, I was immediately intrigued. It sounded completely like my cup of tea, with the synopsis focusing heavily on a Galveston resident hung by her hair from a chandelier during the Great Hurricane of 1900. If this was the primary focus of the book, that would be great, but Black is all over the place with her writing…so much so that things get boring after awhile.

The Drowning House tells the story of Clare Porterfield, whose mar
I really wanted to like this book. I did enjoy all of the information about Galveston in the early 1990's. If this had been a travel brochure I would probably give it all 5 stars. I also enjoyed the author's style and felt she wrote quite well, and the book was well edited, in that there were no glaring grammatical or spelling errors that prevented me from actually staying with the story.

Where this book fell apart was in telling a story that was of any real interest. The plot "twist", such as it
Diane S.
3.5 This author has a very unique and distinct writing style, rather elegant yet matter of fact. I read Isaac's Storm not to long ago, about the Hurricane that devastated Galveston and this book covers the history of Galveston from the viewpoint of the residents that lived there than and live there now. Galveston is a much the main character as is the photographer Claire. Ghosts and mysteries from the past meet up with the now adult Claire, trying to clarify for herself, things she does not unde ...more
This book fell very flat to me. It started off strong and then continued its' slide downward. I expected much more from it than it really delivered. I expected a creepy, paranormal type of book with how the jacket described the book, or minimally a darker family past, and it was much more about family secrets than anything else. I must say, on a positive note, that I did like the writing by this author and would give another book of hers a chance.
I had high hopes for this novel but sometimes book descriptions can be so misleading. The characters are unlikeable; there is too much navel gazing, too much angst and way too much drawing room drama for this reader.

Ugh. I struggled to stick with this one to the end. I did finish it and the reveal was not worth my dogged determination. I did enjoy reading about Galveston so I will take that knowledge of an island I knew nothing about with me.
Lori L (She Treads Softly)
In Elizabeth Black's debut novel, The Drowning House, photographer Clare Porterfield's life is in turmoil. Her six-year-old daughter has died. She is immersed in inescapable grief and her marriage is drowning under the weight of her sorrows. She accepts an invitation to return to her hometown of Galveston, Texas, in order to select the material for a photography exhibition funded by the wealthy Will Carraday.

Clare has been gone from the island for many years and, along with others, is questioni
Jennifer at BookShelfery
This review was originally posted at The Bawdy Book Blog


Of only moderate quality; not very good: “a mediocre actor”.

Which perfectly describes The Drowning House by Elizabeth Black. After suffering a personal tragedy, Clare Porterfield decides to meander across the country back to Galveston Island, Texas, in her decrepit station wagon, leaving her husband behind in Washington, D.C. She’s been offered the opportunity to direct a photography exhibit about the Island, and uses t
The Drowning House
Elizabeth Black

My "in a nutshell" summary...

Claire is stopped cold by the loss of her 6 year old daughter. She suddenly decides to go home. This is not easy for her due to a multitude of past events.

My thoughts after reading this book...

I truly am not sure how I feel about this book. It started off with a huge sadness and a lot of guilt and a ton of truly dysfunctional characters. I don't think anyone in this novel was happy. I have to admit that at first I had a really diffi
I have been ruminating on how best to articulate how I felt about this book and I think my final conclusion is that I wish it had been more about the people and less about the place. Black spends so much of our time describing the Island over and over again, that the book really lost me. I kept pecking away at it because I thought that all the loose threads would come together at some point, but I was pretty disappointed.
The author set Stella up to be a very important piece in the puzzle, but w
One of my New Year's Resolutions was to shut (or its virtual equivalent) books that I have no interest in finishing after I start them and give them a few chapters. After all, I'm a grown-up now and I don't exactly have a shitload of free time on my hands, so why waste it reading something I'm not enjoying? Especially since I'm not being tested on it :)

This was one such book for me. I began listening to it on audiobook and didn't get very far before I had to force myself not to tune it out. And
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. Th
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Mansfield Public ...: The Drowning House Review by Julia Joseph 1 1 Jul 09, 2013 11:54AM  
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Librarian Note: There is more than one author in the GoodReads database with this name. See this thread for more information.
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