Shoma Patnaik's Reviews > The Lace Reader

The Lace Reader by Brunonia Barry
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's review
Mar 28, 2011

liked it
bookshelves: magic-realism, not-owned, drama, religion, 2011, society, family-and-relationships
Read in March, 2011

I started this book on a lazy Sunday afternoon thinking that it would be yet another piece of magic realism, feminist fiction with a 'Practical Magic' meets 'Cien Años de Soledad' hangover. As it turns out, there is surprisingly little magic in the story and more realism than would appear at first sight.

The author describes it as a sort of Hero's Journey and the story centres around Towner Whitney's struggle to return to tranquility, as well as her roots. The book is an easy, smooth read and I liked Barry's Salem, beyond witchcraft and haunted houses: I never knew that the ocean and islands formed such a distinct part of Salem's geographical and emotional landscape. Barry is clearly someone with a profound love for the water, and as someone who lives in a city by the sea and would miss it terribly, I can appreciate that.

Towner's self-confessedly unreliable character, is surprisingly sympathetic. However, I found her ultimate redemption as well as the incident that spurs it, to be somewhat unbelievable. I also wish that there was more actual lace reading: while I don't like authors deliberately injecting mysticism and magic into books, lace reading was an interesting concept and could have been developed beyond the excerpts ending each chapter, which I thought was a rather nice touch.

The Lace Reader is not without its flaws but I look forward to reading Brunonia Barry's next. The reason I liked this book, despite its failings, was the reason I like all my favourites: it had atmosphere. The book had the ability to make you feel the waves of the ocean and islands on a windy evening and being able to do that from my sofa made this a very satisfying read.

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