Saturday, September 4, 2010

Velda Johnston: The White Pavilion

I have just finished reading this one, and I really enjoyed it. Isn't that cover unique, too? The novel was published in 1973, but the story line feels modern (other than the mother of the heroine having been in a big band with her husband).

The pavilion in the title and on the cover is different (and important in the story) from the usual Gothic place/setting. It is one of two or three major settings in the novel.

Jennifer Langley is a working girl in New York City. I notice that Johnston likes her characters to hail from there (in the two novels by her that I've read so far anyway). She goes down to Florida to an island named Dolor Island to stay with her Aunt Evelyn for a month or so while she catalogs the family antiques in her grandfather's old ancestral home. Strange events occur, and it is unclear who is to be trusted for quite some time. I like this one, because the plot is not predictable nor is the love interest. I still had no idea who was going to "win out" on that end 100 pages in. Would it be Kevin, the Vietnam War vet and childhood friend or Harley, the blond hunk who is scandalously married to the much older Aunt Evelyn?

Characterization: 4/5 [I liked most of the characters and could easily picture most of them in my head. Kevin put Tobey Maguire in my head-- the boy next door type. Harley I imagine as a younger Brad Pitt. ;). Aunt Evelyn made me think of Bette Davis. Strangely, the only character I could not picture easily was the heroine; this is disappointing to me, but there was a dearth of physical details about her. Perhaps Johnston did this on purpose-- to readers have control over their own visions of her.]

Plot: 5/5 [I like it because it was unpredictable-- definitely not boring and it flowed well. Another interesting thing is that the heroine's mother comes to the island, too, about two-thirds of the way in to the novel. I have not seen that particular plot choice made too often in these novels. So often, it is just girl, alone.]

Atmosphere/spooky stuff: 4/5 [There is a fake--maybe-- spiritualist in the novel, and that makes for a spooky scene, and there is a prowler on the island and some other things. Then, a hurricane makes its way onto the island. Someone is also trapped in an enclosed space at one point which is spooky/scary. The spookiness/suspense comes in spurts, but I had a hard time putting this novel down.]

Literary or not: 4/5 [It is intelligently written. Harley is a shell collector, and I learned much about the uses of sea shells in ancient times. I might have enjoyed learning a bit more about antiques, though, since the heroine was supposed to be something of an expert on them.]

Romance? Yes

Rating: 4+ stars

** I recommend this one. It is well written and not formulaic. I am quickly becoming a big Velda Johnston fan...


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