I'll start by saying that I am a huge Tana French fan, I have read all of her books and I look forward to the next one. I did not love this one as mucI'll start by saying that I am a huge Tana French fan, I have read all of her books and I look forward to the next one. I did not love this one as much as her others however. I felt rather more let down after this one than I did after "Broken Harbour". But, upon a second reading, I liked "Broken Harbour" a whole lot more. I like to believe that if I put "The Secret Place" away and come back to it in a year or two I'll love it more as well. I've read others complain that this book is too long. I would argue the opposite because I didn't get enough of the girls to make their motivations truly believable. Funnily enough, I felt the same way upon reflection at the end of "Broken Harbour". I just did not find the murderers' actions in either book to be plausible enough. Perhaps the issue in "The Secret Place" is there are just too many characters - too many schoolgirls, not enough pages to get inside the minds of all of them. Perhaps we needed a set of triads, as opposed to quads? She could have killed two birds with one stone - more character development and push the witch trope she developed so quietly. Having the girls unconsciously assembled into a coven would have helped me to believe more fully in the set of strange circumstances that French employed in this work of magical realism. As to the magical realism in this book - French has finally let loose and let us have it. I must admit I was quite worried that "The Secret Place" was about to transform into a Harry Potter book and I was most relieved when it did not. French has always pulled a thread of the eerie and the uncanny throughout her work. To this day and after three readings I still don't understand exactly what stalked the three kids in "In The Woods" and the sick sense of dread (as well as the strange animal) that plagued the family in "Broken Harbour" will always give me chills. I do think she went too far this time in giving the girls their "power". I was willing to accept the hysteria of ghost sightings in this book; the patrician boarding school with its hothouse atmosphere was the perfect location for that kind of contagious psychological atmosphere. I was willing to accept that once in a while lights popped and fizzed out even. I wanted to believe that these young women, at that strange and unstable liminal age, might be able to channel and exert such power. But the proving of it, the girls each testing and validating these powers, ruined it for me. Then giving them the ability to master these powers and use them easily at will really dampened my enthusiasm. When the uncanny becomes unexceptional, when the supernatural becomes a prosaic plot point, I have a lot of trouble buying into a book. Give me more uncertainty, please, less is always more. I did love the idea of what French set out to do here. I loved that these young women, entirely without meaning to, became 21st century Vestal Virgins, unleashing ancient powers channeled through their otherworldy glade. I liked the detectives, the way their relationship unfolded, practically minute by minute in examined detail, throughout the course of the day that made up this book. In fact the biggest shock I got was the odd turn their relationship seemed to take at one point towards the end as the mystery was about to be solved. French is really unrivaled when it comes to shifting your POV on her characters and letting you see that what you believed was reality was really something entirely different altogether. In the end I'll say that a "just good" Tana French book beats your average "airport bestseller" any day of the week. As far as I am concerned French is a magnificent literary writer of suspense/police procedurals and I can't wait to read the next installment of her Dublin Murder Squad series. (less)...more
I can't say I didn't like this book as I sped through it and enjoyed the ride. But would I recommend it? It felt like a Young Adult novel, it lacked aI can't say I didn't like this book as I sped through it and enjoyed the ride. But would I recommend it? It felt like a Young Adult novel, it lacked a fine hand, maturity and subtlety. The author had a point to prove and she did it in the boldest possible strokes. There was some rather racy stuff and I found that odd but then I don't read Young Adult novels and it seems like the kids these days are wild and maybe this is literature for teenagers? It's light on the science fiction/fantasy, really more of a meditation on alternate worlds. It's a great survey of the lives of British women in the 20th century. That's what I enjoyed the most about it. And I would have liked a whole lot of more of it but it seemed the author was more interested in just listing things that happened as opposed to writing about them. The ending wasn't my cup of tea at all. It felt trite and unsatisfying. Not a bad little book but a book that could have been so much more....more
This was a sweet little book and I very much liked it. I liked the slice of late Edwardian spinster life and I liked that Laura did as her heart bid hThis was a sweet little book and I very much liked it. I liked the slice of late Edwardian spinster life and I liked that Laura did as her heart bid her do. She was brave and strong and looked after herself. I had great sympathy with Laura. I do think it's too bad that the lovely gentleman who granted Laura her freedom was called Satan because it's doing a bad service to witches; witchcraft and satan worship are too entirely discrete subjects. Warner did choose to include the bit about the horrible tragedy brought about by the Malleus Maleficarum and Laura's complete lack of interest in warlocks show me that Warner knew that witches have been terribly misunderstood and very hard done by history. It's quite clear that Warner was sympathetic to the plight of witches. But this was the 1920's and I can't expect knowledge of spiritual feminism or even mainstream Wiccan to be part of her milieu. So I must be satisfied with the kindly trickster god with whom Laura aligns herself. Perhaps I'd be less offended by him if she'd called him Pan? Satan is an invention of men who are too afraid of the Goddess to be able to name Her properly and so they subverted their fears (and continue to do so) by ascribing Her Powers to a silly man with horns and a goat's behind. In a perfect world Laura would have found the Goddess and lived Happily Ever After on the Isle of Apples. But the 20's weren't a perfect world and Warner wasn't to know that the devil is for bad men; witches are far too busy with their Goddess. But then, I'm just a nit-pickety old witch with an axe to grind. ;)...more
**spoiler alert** What is worse? Abandoning a book or skipping a discrete section in order to finish it? Either way, that's where I am with this book.**spoiler alert** What is worse? Abandoning a book or skipping a discrete section in order to finish it? Either way, that's where I am with this book. I was onboard and loving every second of it until we got to the "I'm going to write a teenage love story" section. I feel rather guilty about this because I am not so very interested in Skylar Rampike outside of the mystery of what happened in his home. I almost feel akin to all the nasty, terrible, horrible, rotten adults in his life that have dismissed him in favour of his sister since the day she stepped out onto the ice. Is it because this is another case of Oates seeming unable to control herself and writing, writing, writing? Just when her work is stretched thin to a wonderful breaking point, when she's spun out the thread of tension to a moment when you are thrilled with the excitement of it... she screws with you by switching to a totally different subject and tries your patience. Is it because I am having a hard time buying that this is Skylar's voice altogether? Skylar is a mental case, he's shattered into a thousand pieces... he's barely holding himself together from birth it seems. Why does he sound so much like Joyce Carol Oates much of the time and so little like an early 21st century teenage boy? I can't decide what to do - skip this part of just leave off. I've got a pile of other books to read from the library... sigh.
*** Well, I finished the book, just sort of skimmed the little teenage romance part. I doubt I missed all that much. I do feel bad about it but I knew I'd never finish it if I made myself read that part.
Interesting to see that Oates had Betsy accidentally kill Bliss with the stupid kidnap rouse. It wasn't what I saw coming. I assumed we'd see Betsy killing Bliss outright, slamming her against the bathroom counter out of frustration with the bedwetting. Or perhaps the child would have been brought back to Betsy dead after some assignation that had been planned with another person who wound up killing her. I suppose because these are two of the way I have always assumed Jonbenet Ramsey to have died.
Oates did a great job of writing a story from the point of view of the ignored little boy. Like I wrote above, I wanted to ignore Skyler too. I found him terribly annoying and he talked too much. But that is another one of Oates' tendencies, bless her prolific heart.
The promise of a happily ever after did nothing to make me like the book any more. I'll give this a "meh". ...more
When I started this book I was under the impression that it had been inspired by Aileen Wuornos and, for a moment, I was just a bit disappointed whenWhen I started this book I was under the impression that it had been inspired by Aileen Wuornos and, for a moment, I was just a bit disappointed when Rose of Sharon/Starr Bright/Sherrill turned out to be a different sort of customer than Aileen was. Our protagonist is wounded young woman in the body of a middle-aged former model, now stripper who has been "run to earth" by God and believes herself to be, in fact, the very hand of God. She's on a cross-country killing spree and she must end it in her hometown. Rounding the book out is our murderer's twin sister, Lily of the Valley, quite comfortably living out her quiet, unassuming life back in their hometown. Lily has a lovely husband and a sweet, charming daughter, teetering on the precipice of love, boys and life. Guess who blows into this delicately balanced family to burn it all down? This is a seering page-turner. Rose and Lily are both painstakingly sketched and, shockingly, both are easily sympathetic to the reader. Wonderful book! ...more
By the time I was done with this I was asking myself why anyone would bother writing it. Horrible book full of horrible people, nobody was sympatheticBy the time I was done with this I was asking myself why anyone would bother writing it. Horrible book full of horrible people, nobody was sympathetic, full of misanthropy, violence, selfishness and all that is wrong with parenting. Is the author trying to make a statement about the cold inhumanity of Dutch culture? Am I supposed to be asking myself, "Who are these terrible, awful people? Who behaves like this? How does a child manage to have two parents who are BOTH devoid of human emotion, devoid of empathy? Why is this woman thrilled & excited by her husband's psychotic violence? WTF is WRONG with these people? Is this an absurdist novel? Am I reading some sort of European philosophy? Is this supposed to be like Sartre or Kafka? What is going on?" And what in the world was the nonsense about amniocentesis and German disease names? can one test for sociopathy in the Netherlands? come on. and what was this mysterious disease the mother got? why did that have to be so secret? What a vile book, full of vile people. What a tremendous waste of my time....more
What a brutal little book this is; what nasty people inhabit it. I can't think of any place more terrifying to live than a dark, Germanic, old world vWhat a brutal little book this is; what nasty people inhabit it. I can't think of any place more terrifying to live than a dark, Germanic, old world village - and this book only affirmed my feelings. My, what a disturbing world this book portrays. Rape, murder, incest, arson, psychological abuse - the people of Hemmersmoor do it all like breathing. ...more
I made myself sit down and finish this book yesterday. When I picked it up yesterday afternoon I was on page 432 and I told myself, "You are not goingI made myself sit down and finish this book yesterday. When I picked it up yesterday afternoon I was on page 432 and I told myself, "You are not going to bed tonight until this book is finished so you can either park your fat behind on the couch and get through it this afternoon or you can stay up tonight." One must be dogged to finish this book. It's a great book. For every 7 pages that I felt myself slogging through I'd get to a page that made me laugh out loud or a page so magnificently written it was worth the 7 annoying ones I'd just felt mired in. Oates is frighteningly talented and this book only reinforces that reputation. I now know more about Woodrow Wilson and Upton Sinclair than I'd ever imagined I would.... and I came away distinctly not liking the two men as well. Who would imagine an author could turn them into the self-absorbed worms I now know them to be? I liked the ending a great deal and didn't feel let down by it. I even quite liked the tone of the ending and I'm usually up for death, destruction and misery with a book like this. If you want something you'll have to force yourself to finish, pick this one up. It's worth it in the end. If only to marvel at just how brilliant Oates truly is....more
Well if I had known this author wrote YA I wouldn't have picked it up. Felt like an exercise for a writer's workshop. The protagonist had all the compWell if I had known this author wrote YA I wouldn't have picked it up. Felt like an exercise for a writer's workshop. The protagonist had all the complexity, maturity and introspection of a 14 year old girl. Not my cup of tea but would probably be great for her regular audience. ...more
I do not have to like the protagonist in order to like a book. Case in point would be Ruth Rendell's "A Sight for Sore Eyes". I loved that book despitI do not have to like the protagonist in order to like a book. Case in point would be Ruth Rendell's "A Sight for Sore Eyes". I loved that book despite the fact that it's largely the story of a terrible, murdering sociopath. Maybe I do need to like the narrator in order to love a book though. I'm wondering this because I've just recently finished "The Dinner" by Herman Koch and I violently disliked that book - and the narrator as well. Moggach's Leila is impossible to actually like. She is a pedant of the highest order. It doesn't help that she is so very young and sheltered. Hearing philosophical pronouncements with the coldness of Spock come from the mouths of babes is always trying. Leila spends all her time running new information through her computer-like brain and coming up with computations and very little time empathizing with those around her. People without empathy are very hard for me to like and I found myself frustrated by this throughout the book. Complicating the fact is that Leila is a sympathetic character when she's not aping and defending the nasty and selfish Adrian and behaving like some sort of soulless computer nerd. She's been through some rough stuff in her young life, she IS vulnerable and easily preyed upon, despite her sticking out her chest and claiming she's not to those who might like to help her. It's good that as the book ends she softens her idealistic stance that the world works in blacks and whites and that all problems can be solved with a Google search, a chart and stiff helping of logic. A good first book from an author who can write a tight thriller. I look forward to reading her next one. ...more