Wednesday, September 11, 2013

The Drowning House

The Drowning House
Elizabeth Black

First Sentences
"If there was a sign, I missed it.  But I knew I was in Texas when I swerved to avoid a shape by the side of the road."

Publisher's Description:
A gripping suspense story about a woman who returns to Galveston, Texas after a personal tragedy and is irresistibly drawn into the insular world she’s struggled to leave.

Photographer Clare Porterfield's once-happy marriage is coming apart, unraveling under the strain of a family tragedy. When she receives an invitation to direct an exhibition in her hometown of Galveston, Texas, she jumps at the chance to escape her grief and reconnect with the island she hasn't seen for ten years. There Clare will have the time and space to search for answers about her troubled past and her family's complicated relationship with the wealthy and influential Carraday family.

Soon she finds herself drawn into a century-old mystery involving Stella Carraday. Local legend has it that Stella drowned in her family's house during the Great Hurricane of 1900, hanged by her long hair from the drawing room chandelier. Could Stella have been saved? What is the true nature of Clare's family's involvement? The questions grow like the wildflower vines that climb up the walls and fences of the island. And the closer Clare gets to the answers, the darker and more disturbing the truth becomes.

Steeped in the rich local history of Galveston, The Drowning House portrays two families, inextricably linked by tragedy and time.

Dear Reader,

Wow. This book was nothing like I expected. I thought it was going to be a story about the history of a girl who had drowned during a hurricane, he hair entwined in a chandelier. That is what the book’s description led me to believe! However, it was NOTHING of the sort. It was a story about a woman who had lost her young child, and of her journey through finding understanding regarding the rest of her life, particularly her rather messy childhood.

I have to admit, I didn’t particularly like the reader of this book (I was audiobooking it via Overdrive, from my local library). That probably didn’t help endear me to the protagonist. However, I also kept being constantly surprised by this novel, and not in a good way. I kept expecting things to happen that didn’t, and I felt a complete lack of empathy throughout the story, even after finding out the Truth. While I might have felt bad for the protagonist, I certainly didn’t feel much sympathy. It sucked what happened to her, but she was not terribly likable and certainly the story itself was paced in such a way that I kept waiting for things to happen, but when they did, it was kind of a let-down. While ultimately I liked the idea of the story, I didn’t particularly love the execution of it. The narrator basically let things happen TO her, which is understandable in the long run, but doesn’t make you like her much as she relates her tale. Additionally, I couldn’t relate to her reactions to things, nor to her discoveries themselves - they never seemed quite completed, and while they should have perhaps been obvious, the clues felt too muddied, to me. (A bit like this review! - I’m not quite sure what I’m even trying to say.)

I did love the setting of this book: the intriguing island of Galveston, TX. I wanted to visit there, to become one of the looked-down-upon tourists who the narrator and other B.O.I. (Born On the Island) barely tolerate. But the author made the island sound so enticing, despite its decline from its heyday. I want to experience the place, particularly its vivid history which seems to linger long after it’s happened.

Overall, my impression of the book was that it felt somewhat unfinished, which is weird because there were several times when I kept thinking that the story hadn’t even yet started. I wanted to know more about Clare’s photography exhibit, for one thing. And about where she went and what she did after her visit: what happened to her marriage, where did she live? I felt the author was vague and therefore distant regarding these details, ones which I found the most important. Perhaps that just means I was looking at the story the wrong way entirely.


P.S. By the way?  GREAT first sentence of the novel, though!!!  I loved it.

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