**spoiler alert** Ugh. I absolutely despised the "writing style" of this book, though I can't really say if that's the author's fault or the translato...more**spoiler alert** Ugh. I absolutely despised the "writing style" of this book, though I can't really say if that's the author's fault or the translators' faults, or both. The writing style is very simplistic, as is the dialogue, and the plot itself is very roundabout. The plot itself was boring, the characters flat and unrealistic.
A young woman, Noriko, marries into a large, close-knit family of eight, the Shito family, several generations who all live together in a big house in Tokyo. The family is well off, owning their own businesses and having properties with tenets. Everyone in the family is overly nice and kind to Noriko, calling her "the treasure of the family". Noriko is happy enough with her situation and new family until an accident—an explosion—occurs while she is away, visiting her parents. Noriko becomes suspicious when her new family fails to have any emotional reaction to the explosion, which caused the death of a tenet, an ice vendor and his family. The family offers no real answers to any of Noriko's endless questions, and Noriko's suspicions turn into delusions after she talks things over with an old friend, Tomomi. At first, Tomomi thinks Noriko is crazy with her suspicions, but then she encourages Noriko to not give in so easily and just trust the family when they continue to lie to Noriko.
I read to about page 124 and then I was just couldn't stand it any more. Noriko basically gets upset and more suspicious and more and more delusional and cries a ton and then the family apologizes to her and praises her endlessly, all of which makes Noriko more upset and uneasy. Everything that was already mentioned—the death/murder of the ice vendor and his family, the "Crazy Eggplant" the family grows in their garden, the mysterious nightly goings-on of the family which excludes Noriko, the mysterious Ei, the elderly matriarch of the Shito family and her neighborly visitors, Ei's ability to walk and Mastuzo's (a great-grandfather in the family who has had a stroke) ability to talk normally, etc. At one point, Noriko is hysterical, crying and screaming and threatens to leave the family. She runs upstairs to pack a suitcase and her husband and father-in-law corner her and make her drink drugged tea. Shortly after this, I skimmed the rest of the book.
I'm not quite sure what happened, all the details, but apparently the family has been selling psychotropic mushrooms or something for centuries to all the neighbors in their community. The family has been feeding Noriko these mushrooms to keep her disoriented and calm. Eventually Noriko's accusations of the family's untrustworthiness and possible murderous tendencies and tell her off, and then shortly after that, Ei tells Noriko the "true story" of the Shito family (I have no idea what this is because I skimmed it) and then the whole family undresses and has an orgy which each other. EWWWWWW. GROSS. WTF was this book?! (less)
**spoiler alert** Definitely a good read. It was a mystery, well-written and in the Regency style (via the blurb on the back of the book), and had a g...more**spoiler alert** Definitely a good read. It was a mystery, well-written and in the Regency style (via the blurb on the back of the book), and had a good buildup of suspense and drama (plenty of drama!), as well as the key elements first introduced in Pride and Prejudice: the importance of family and finding a good match.
I actually enjoyed reading this much more than the original Pride and Prejudice. This book was sort of a "sequel" in which Elizabeth and Darcy have been married a year, are Mistress and Master of Pemberley and are very, very, very much in love. An unexpected winter storm strands a diverse group of people at Pemberley, a few of which the Darcys know, including Elizabeth's sister Lydia (sans husband), viscount Stafford (who apparently knew Darcy's cousin colonel Edward) and Nigel Worth, a lawyer who knows Darcy because of his dealings with paying of Mr. Wickham's gambling debts, and Darcy's cousin Anne de Bough and his estranged Aunt, Lady Catherine. There's also the viscount's mistress and a naval widow, and Anne's maid, Mrs. Jenkinson. Elizabeth and Darcy were only supposed to host Lydia and Darcy's cousin and aunt, but took pity on those he knew stranded at the station where they picked up Lydia.
Meanwhile, just before taking home so many guests, Elizabeth and Darcy (and Darcy's sister Georgiana) started noticing strange figures lurking around the Pemberley grounds and in the house, hearing strange sounds, noticing objects like candle holders and bedding and food disappearing. With all the guests, the strange events slowly began to escalate, from petty theft to acts of vandalism and mischief and then to murder.
It's sort of a detective story, but not really, but Darcy and Elizabeth are hardly amateur sleuths, but they do their best. They are still baffled by the occurrences, and have no idea how the "phantom(s)" are getting around the house and how he/she/it/they is/are not being noticed by anyone other than Darcy's staff.
In between the mystery parts matches are being made, and love is being declared (sometimes over and over and over and over again), honors and reputations are being tested, and the plot of Pride and Prejudice is being rehashed (again, sometimes over and over and over and over). Some of this dragged for me; I kept putting the book down and coming back to it, and I was happy to get to the end of the book. The idea of this particular plot (with all its twists and turns) was interesting enough, and at first, it was sort of page turner where I wanted to know what would happen next, but there were too many subplots and the above mentioned for it to keep the good momentum from the beginning. I don't regret buying it or reading it though, it was fun and interesting, and there were solid resolutions to all the subplots and for the characters left in "limbo" in at the end of Pride and Prejudice, like Anne, Georgiana, and even Lady Catherine. The only one who made out terribly was Lydia, but the resolution for her was probably for the best, given the situation.
At the end of the book, there's a few pages of some history regarding mental illness and split personalities in the Victorian area—how there were mental illnesses documented, but without the names that we have today to label them with. I kind of skimmed it, but it was nice to have a touch of history to make a plot point more relevant. (less)
**spoiler alert** This is definitely a different—yet kind of cool, especially if you like vampires—take on Jane Austen's "Pride and Prejudice" novel,...more**spoiler alert** This is definitely a different—yet kind of cool, especially if you like vampires—take on Jane Austen's "Pride and Prejudice" novel, at least, the continuation of it. (And if you haven't read Jane Austen's novel, don't fear, since Amanda Grange summarizes quite a bit key plot points from "Pride and Prejudice". After a while, you might just wish Elizabeth would stop whining about missing Longbourn and Jane so much!) It's almost a "modern" Gothic novel (at least, modernly written)—it has all the hallmarks of a Gothic novel: romance, supernatural occurrences, ancient evil villains, love conquering all, a curse, and a mystery nearly kept entirely from the heroine—Elizabeth—till just about the climax.
I enjoyed reading this more than "Pride and Prejudice" because I like vampires, and I also like retellings of stories and fairy tales and mythologies. I sort of loved how parts of "Pride and Prejudice" were retold to incorporate the vampire mythology, as well as the near extreme measures taken to keep Elizabeth Bennett out of the Darcy family, and why Darcy behaved "really" in such a cold manner towards Elizabeth. I wasn't ever completely comfortable with the author's style of writing, which was sort of "detached" (but this could also be because the story dealt more with the plot, especially the heavy descriptions of traveling from place to place to place, and parties and new characters, rather than divulging the characters' innermost thoughts), but I did think it suited the story overall.
I was expecting Elizabeth to be turned into a vampire and was surprised when it didn't happen—even more surprised when it turned out there was a way to reverse Darcy's "curse". I also kept expecting Elizabeth and Darcy to sleep together, but each time a dramatic moment arose when it might occur, it just as quickly stopped. After Elizabeth finally found out about Darcy's curse, I was almost a little bored—thinking the story could only end one of two ways—Elizabeth turning into a vampire, or Elizabeth somehow managing to kill Darcy, but my boredom didn't last more than a few pages. I liked the journey into the ancient, buried temple to attempt the ordeal of un-making Darcy a vampire. Overall, the novel was a lot of fun. (less)
**spoiler alert** Beautiful prose, beautifully told, the story of Kitty, a false, frivolous woman who, over the course of the novel, awakens her spiri...more**spoiler alert** Beautiful prose, beautifully told, the story of Kitty, a false, frivolous woman who, over the course of the novel, awakens her spiritual consciousness and becomes a woman of substance. Or at least, strives to be one and hopes to raise her (presumed) daughter as a woman of substance too.
Really loved reading this. I had seen the beginning of this as a black and white movie a while back and was intrigued: a flaky, self-absorbed, heartsick married woman has an affair with a married man, and then when her husband finds out, he makes her go with him into a cholera-stricken region of Hong Kong. Her married lover refuses to divorce his wife and marry his lover, so she has no choice but to go with her husband. That was all I saw, but I was intrigued and decided I wanted to read the book.
I think that I was sort of expecting the plot to be a love story, a rekindling romance between Kitty and Walter, so I was more than surprised when Kitty found herself pregnant and unsure of who the father was, and then when Walter died. I was even more surprised by Kitty's return to Hong Kong found herself falling back into the arms of Charles Townsend, the man with whom she had the affair (after swearing to herself she was no longer in love with him).
These surprises, however unexpected, added such dimension to Kitty and to the plot that made me realize I was glad not to see another "cliched" romantic plot. The novel is all about Kitty and her transformation from the selfish woman she was all her life to the self-reliant, self-aware, thoughtful woman she becomes, just, at the ending, learning how to love and how to ask for real love, and redemption. (less)