Hannah's Reviews > The Tenth Gift

The Tenth Gift by Jane Johnson
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's review
Apr 08, 11

bookshelves: 2011-reads, historicals
Read in April, 2011

I feel somewhat guilty for according only 2 stars for a book like The Tenth Gift. Certainly I've read countless books like it in the past, and rated them higher.

Generally, I adore this type of fiction, where the author creates two women from different time periods and weaves an interconnecting tale of their lives and fates (often with subtle supernatural overtones). Writers like Susanna Kearsley and Kate Morton do it well, with their respective books The Winter Sea and The Forgotten Garden.

In addition, I'm a huge fan of the "east-meets-west" culture clash type of fiction, as witnessed by my extreme admiration for books like M.M. Kaye's Shadow of the Moon or Rebecca Ryman's Olivia & Jai.

And then there's my unexplainable place-crush for a locale I've never even been to: Cornwall. For this obsession, I totally blame Daphne duMaurier, and her mesmerizing books set in Cornwall like Rebecca and Jamaica Inn. If a book even mentions Cornwall, you've partially sold me already.

So when a GR friend recommended that I check this book out, I was estatic to discover all three of these elements incapsulated within one novel. Which brings me back to my 2 star rating...

The Tenth Gift, while a perfectly adequate read, lacked any real depth or *soul* to me, and thus not any amount of literary carrot-on-a-stick was enough to make me enjoy this book in any appreciable way. To do so, I need to become invested in the characters and their story. I want to be moved by them, regardless of whether I love them, or love to hate them. Quite frankly, by the end of this book, I was indifferent to them and the completion of the story arc, because IMO the characters remained merely blank, stock figures moving from one event to another without making any kind of lasting impression on me, the reader. Both past and present narratives had their ups and downs, and there were some interesting moments during both POVs, but not enough to sustain or engage me. Honestly, I think that in the hands of another writer (like the ones I've mentioned) I would have enjoyed this book tremendously, but Johnson didn't speak my language in terms of crafting an engrossing story for me. However, there are plenty of 4 and 5 star reviews to attest to her success among other readers, so obviously she struck chords elsewhere; just not for me :(
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