This was a page-turner; I was drawn in by the mysteries that drove the plot, and finished the book quickly. The pacing and atmosphere were great. But...moreThis was a page-turner; I was drawn in by the mysteries that drove the plot, and finished the book quickly. The pacing and atmosphere were great. But there were some other things that didn't work as well for me.
Good stuff: - The setting was well illustrated, conveying the claustrophobia of a small, rural town. - The shifting POVs provided an interesting way to build tension.
Not-so-good stuff: - I could never get a handle on how old the kids were. Especially Daniel: He often acted like a 12-year old (sometimes younger, even), yet he was supposedly almost as tall as his dad (6', at least)? But his mother's "he's nearly a man" thoughts (repeated way too many times, in my opinion) put him more at 14-15. Evie was confusing, too. Was she 5? 10? I couldn't tell. - I was really taken out of the story by descriptions of women as tiny, childlike, fragile, tender, crying all the damn time, etc. The women in this story basically stood around wringing their (little! delicate!) hands and waiting for their (big, tall, broad, strong, manly [yep, these descriptions were also used ad nauseam for the men]) husbands/brothers/fathers to "do something." Ugh. I wasn't expecting an Amazon warrior to show up and lay down the law, but a woman with some backbone who was described as an adult would be nice. - Random errors ("steam" instead of "stream," "coup" instead of [chicken] "coop") came up a few times. Not so good.
Overall, BENT ROAD was an interesting portrayal of a family's collision with the past. Even though I didn't like most of the main characters, I still cared enough about what happened to them to read to the end.(less)
**spoiler alert** I really enjoyed TIPPING THE VELVET, so I was excited to read FINGERSMITH ... And I am sorry to say I was disappointed! Sarah Waters...more**spoiler alert** I really enjoyed TIPPING THE VELVET, so I was excited to read FINGERSMITH ... And I am sorry to say I was disappointed! Sarah Waters is a talented writer, with lovely prose and world-building. But the plot of this book was at once improbable and predictable. I could buy the convoluted story of Susan and Maud's upbringings ... but not also buy that they later meet as teenagers and fall in love. And I could believe that they fell in love even while deceiving each other ... but not also believe that their (very new) attraction could survive all the subsequent torment and captivity they both suffer.
Unfortunately, too, the big plot twist at the end of part one was totally ruined for me by the back-jacket review copy (which is certainly not the author's fault). It reads: "The plot twists ... until one girl is in a terrifying insane asylum and the another held captive." Well, gee, if you don't say "Sue is held captive" and "Maud is in an asylum," it's pretty obvious their places have been switched.
Some things in the book just weren't my cup of tea. The dog-coat thing and the cruelty to dog at the Lant Street house were really off-putting. (Yes, I know animals were treated badly in Victorian times -- so were people! -- but that doesn't mean I want to read about it.) I didn't like Maud as a narrator; she had lived through a terrible upbringing, but she was so cold and vicious to her maids. I found her entirely unsympathetic. The uncle's library plot was shockingly boring for a storyline about rare pornographic books! And Sue's stay in the asylum was just disturbing and awful. I haven't read many novels about 1800s asylums because what the people there suffered terrifies me.
Some bright spots: The Gentleman's death scene was *fantastically* written. Really vivid and strong prose and images, great dialogue, great scene-setting. And I loved Sue's wry narration, when she had the chance to be funny. Unfortunately the book was so damn grim that she didn't have much to joke about.
I think my reading of FINGERSMITH was negatively affected by my high expectations. After TIPPING THE VELVET, which was funny, and sexy, and followed a very moving love story at the end, I was hoping for those qualities in FINGERSMITH, too.(less)