Teresa's Reviews > Quiet Dell

Quiet Dell by Jayne Anne Phillips
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As we all know, reading is a matter of taste, and two big elements here are not to my taste. First, the love story is too romance-y, even though I understand its purpose, reminding me of how I felt about Orringer's The Invisible Bridge (the one flaw for me in that work of historical fiction was the romance). Interestingly, and perhaps not coincidentally, a principal of each love story is based on, or is a homage to, a relative of the writer. Second, the main theme (of good arising from tragedy) was stated too obviously and often for my taste.

Unlike the several other works I've read by Phillips, the writing didn't pull me in for the most part, though I found the sections of 'magical realism' (for lack of a better term) the best written. I didn't care, though, for the ability of the main character, Emily, to 'sense' things out of the blue, though the reader suspects this intuition comes from one of the murdered children. I much prefer Phillips' Lark & Termite for the blending of fact and fiction, and a well-done 'fanciful' scene I still remember.

Perhaps the characterization of Emily, a newspaper reporter, is my main issue. The dialogue she shares with her two closest friends seems by turns a bit anachronistic and then at times too hokey. In her depiction one of my pet peeves is employed: a beautiful woman being so attractive that every male thinks so, even when that's not pertinent to the story. I know she's the lone female doing her job among several powerful men, but every single one of them seems to be smitten with her in one way or another. Perhaps that's also the fault of Emily being a homage to the writer's mother. (I didn't know this until after I finished the book: it's stated in the acknowledgments.)

Perhaps I expected too much based on what I've read of Phillips previously.
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Reading Progress

November 13, 2013 – Shelved
Started Reading
November 19, 2013 – Finished Reading

Comments Showing 1-18 of 18 (18 new)

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James Murphy I'm tempted by this and curious to learn what you think.


message 2: by Carol (new)

Carol I am also curious to hear what you think of this book. Reviews are all over the place....


Teresa I've only read my GR friend Cynthia's review of it and she loved it. I would've picked it up anyway, as I really like earlier works by Phillips.


message 4: by Dolors (new)

Dolors I like how you disclose your reaction about the novel while threading a literary path to compare and contrast. Great review,Teresa.


message 5: by Teresa (last edited Nov 20, 2013 02:27PM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Teresa Thanks so much, Dolors. I can't help but compare and contrast. It must be in my DNA, or maybe it's from my B.A. in English training. :)


message 6: by Ann (new) - added it

Ann Thanx for comments, you do indeed know how to review books in manner that draws me in. Perhaps, will read Jayne Ann Phillip's new book after the holidays..Was it Black Tickets that we read in group?


Teresa Thanks, Ann. I reread my review of her Lark & Termite while writing this review and noticed you made a similar comment about reading that one. :) I hope I never steer you wrong. Yes, it was! And I thought Black Tickets was amazing!


James Murphy Good review, Teresa, and thanks. I, too, like it that you make a review personal. It's a quality of yours I've noticed before & appreciate. Your reviews always carry your impressions as well as critical insight. I realize you wrote your comments while keeping in mind that at least 2 of us had charged you with letting us know about the book so we could make a decision about it. Heavy responsibility. You might be surprised to know that I find the review intriguing & will read it. Thanks again for the good review.


message 9: by Carol (last edited Nov 21, 2013 01:49PM) (new)

Carol I like your review of this book, and I seem to have the same feelings about a book as you. I don't like reading about a girl that knocks every guy dead with her looks and I don't care for hokey love stories. I may not add this book to my "pile." I always seem to agree with your reviews, so I will definitely consider this one as agreement as well.


message 10: by Teresa (last edited Nov 21, 2013 02:56PM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Teresa Thanks so much, Murph and Carol.

Yes, I did feel a responsibility, but I don't know that it was a heavy one ;) since my feelings were clear to me. I look forward to your impressions, Murph.

I try to be fair and not turn anyone off of something they might like, if at all possible. All reviews are personal, I feel, but it's knowing who you are simpatico with, or at least knowing from the review what you yourself might or might not like, that's key.

Carol, the love story isn't the only element of the book, not by a long-shot, but it was enough to raise my hackles at certain points.


Emily I was more curious about the crime and the weird psychology of Harry Powers, so the romance took the book in a direction opposite to where I wanted to go. It seemed twisted, for lack of a better word, that in the first part of the book we're introduced to Ana's husband who preferred anal sex, and then two homosexuals (spoiler alert: any romantic thing you can imagine in this book will happen). I did enjoy the writing, however.


message 12: by Teresa (last edited Dec 27, 2013 10:11AM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Teresa Good points, Emily. Harry Powers was definitely the more interesting character. Even though the attraction between the two men was mostly off-stage, so to speak, it still seemed too romance-y for me.


Kathy I totally agree with your review. However, I loved The Invisible Bridge and didn't think your assessment on that romance was quite true. Quiet Dell was just too maudlin...most of the prose, the flying wind and snow, the white fabric at the end...just all of it. The real story was interesting, but the fictional story was overdone.


Teresa Thanks for commenting, Kathy. I loved The Invisible Bridge too; its prose was exquisite. You are right that here the prose is not, disappointing me, as I've found Phillips' other works to be much better than this one.


James Murphy Interesting comments more so after our both having read it. I also prefer Lark and Termite. In fact, I prefer everything of Phillips over Quiet Dell.

I wasn't aware that she based Emily on her mother. Interesting to know.


Teresa James wrote: "I wasn't aware that she based Emily on her mother. Interesting to know."

Did your edition not say this, or do you not bother reading acknowledgments?


James Murphy I don't usually read acknowledgements. I think most of the acknowledgements section is thanking people. And usually I'm eager to be finished with a book and move on, so I skip them. Maybe I'm missing important information and should start paying attention to them, and I will.


Teresa James wrote: "I don't usually read acknowledgements. I think most of the acknowledgements section is thanking people. And usually I'm eager to be finished with a book and move on, so I skip them. Maybe I'm mi..."

I skim it when it's a bunch of names, but sometimes there is interesting (I don't know about 'important') ;) stuff.


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