This book has been described as of interest to fans of the movie Possession starring Gwyneth Paltrow and Aaron Eckhart. While it's true that there areThis book has been described as of interest to fans of the movie Possession starring Gwyneth Paltrow and Aaron Eckhart. While it's true that there are similarities - romance among two people brought together by new findings that shed light upon a piece of British history - the pacing of this novel would have been much better served as a movie. While I am glad I read it, I can't say I simply enjoyed it.
The story got lost for me in the emphasis placed on everything from the detailed descriptions of the British and Welsh countrysides to ancient historical events and genealogies to dreamscapes (which really seemed most out of place) to almost everything but the forward momentum of the story itself. I could see how the sweeping vistas would be gorgeous in a movie, or how the impeccably researched historical elements might appeal to history buffs, but I wanted more meat to the story itself. The very writing itself seemed to contain a kind of stereotypical British constraint that was occasionally swept aside by a fanciful phrase that almost did more to distract than add, it being so out of place.
All of that said, something about it kept me reading, maybe because the pacing was just enough to hook me in as I was about to give up with some new piece of the mystery or new development in a character's relationship. I did like the characters: Donald Gladstone is the co-main character along with Julia Llewelyn. He's an archaeologist; she's a researcher for the OED. Her husband, Hugh Mortimer, I thought was the least realized character, despite his rather central role in the end. Some intriguing minor characters come in, with Donald's American ex-wife being my least favorite, mostly because she either put on airs as a character or the author genuinely believes American women act like this (either one being of extreme annoyance to me).
A slow build for sure, I was almost most disappointed in the ending, for right as there is a final build-up to the actual find that brings all the various pieces of the historical mystery together, the author prefers to write something prosaic and leave it all to our imagination, what happens next, as opposed to giving the reader some closure - which, ironically I felt, was something several of characters throughout the novel were looking for (closure). Overall, I'd recommend less historical reference, more character development....more
My friend asked me why I gave it only two stars, and this was my response. It's masquerading as a review:
I really wanted to like it! It was on my TBRMy friend asked me why I gave it only two stars, and this was my response. It's masquerading as a review:
I really wanted to like it! It was on my TBR list, and then a book group I'm in chose it, so I was excited to pick it up. But it just annoyed the crap out of me almost from the beginning. I think it has a lot to do with the place I'm at in my own life right now, but everyone was SO whiny and self-centered and dishonorable that I had a lot of trouble feeling comfortable with any of the characters. Everyone was just so f-ing PASSIVE! "Wah, this all happens TO me. I'm in these situations I don't like but will continue to go along with because someone else is steamrolling right over my (mostly internal) weak protests." Pasquale was the only one I actually LIKED (though I get you don't have to like a character to connect with a book), and it wasn't just because I was proud of him for doing the right thing, but because he did something - anything - at all to change his life. Even Dee said at one point that being with her husband was like being on an island - like she was just waiting with him in this middle period, waiting for her life to begin (which was a HUGE theme throughout the course of the book). But she doesn't consciously DO anything to change her life, or her son's life, until Pasquale re-enters (I'm being vague to avoid spoilers in case anyone else reads this rant). In terms of the writing style, again that was something I really wanted to like, because in theory, I'm super supportive of multiple POVs and various narrative styles to move plot forward, but the way it was executed made me feel uncomfortable (again) and disjointed and vaguely annoyed almost the entire time. Then there's the writing itself, which I thought was a little rambly and whiny and self-congratulatory and cliched on the existential bits (and there was a part where the author consciously used a big metaphor and chose El Dorado when Don Quixote would have been a much better and more relatable choice). Also, I didn't like the last chapter, except for the very last Pasquale/Dee part. I suppose some argument could be made that wrapping up their story was given greater context by wrapping up the other loose ends of secondary and even tertiary characters, but the wrap-ups seemed too pat for me. There were two beautiful lines in the entire book that gave me pause, and other than that, the writing didn't knock my socks off. So, all of that combined, two stars....more