Friday, September 24, 2010

Victoria Holt: The Spring of the Tiger

This novel was published in 1979; the above cover is the one I have in the hardback edition. I know I have read it before, but I can remember very little of Holt's novels since it has been about seventeen or eighteen years since I read most of them. I liked them very much then, but I'm not sure about now as I plan to reread some or most of them-- this being the first in that attempt.

This one concerns Sarah Ashington, the daughter of an actress, who has never known her father. After a scandal concerning her mother's lover, Sarah and her mother retire to Ashington Grange to live with two old aunts, Martha and Mabel. Sarah makes a friend in her mysterious governess, Celia, who leaves suddenly one day. Sarah's mother dies, and her father comes to visit. His companion, Clinton Shaw, becomes an object of fascination for Sarah almost immediately. Her trouble begins there. The setting moves from Ashington Grange to Ceylon; menacing events unfold and Toby, Sarah's beloved friend and old tutor, reappears in Sarah's life.

Characterization: 4/5 [Some of the characters seem a bit flat. I had a little trouble picturing Sarah Ashington for a while, but with her brown hair and indeterminate eye color, I thought of Jennifer Garner for her role in any possible movie. Toby I picture as a guy I once liked in my neighborhood growing up-- brown hair, blue eyes. :) I think Clinton Shaw could be played by a younger Brad Pitt.]

Plot: 3/5 [This one gets off to a slow start for me. I honestly feel the novel could be at least 75 pages shorter. I finally got into the novel around page 85, but it ebbed and flowed for me. I simply was never really captivated by it or by Holt's writing style. Also, there is a twist or two in the novel, but I had figured out the villain early in or suspected the villain. I wonder how my re-readings of the other Holt works are going to go.]

Atmosphere/spooky elements: 3/5 [There is very little of this type of thing until a good ways in when a threatening woman shows up on the doorstep outside, and Sarah sees her. Then, ghosts at Ashington Grange become an issue along with the ever present Ashington Pearls which are said to have some sort of power and have been passed down through generations. Overall, this one takes a while to get to the spooky/menacing stuff, and when the scary stuff did happen, it sort of fell flat for me. The novel feels more melodramatic than Gothic.]

Literary: 3/5 [Poets are mentioned and quoted and the title of the book is a variation of a line from a poem; I always like that. For some reason, though, this novel feels very fluffy to me.]

Romance: Yes... and rape and other stuff. I liked one male love interest in the novel and not the other. I don't want to add a spoiler here.

Rating: 3+ stars    ***+

I am torn with this one, and that 3+ rating feels high to me, honestly. I am sure many of you would like the novel, so I recommend it on that basis. With that said, it is definitely not one of my favorites of the genre, and I'm trepidatious about my next foray with Holt.


Anonymous said...

Hi, I’d like to read more Victoria Holt novels as I enjoy her prose and her story telling; I have read On the Night of the Seventh Moon and The Shivering Sands but most of her other books I’ve come across seem more historical romance than gothic. I’d love to hear more about any gothic romances of hers you would recommend.

lisalgreer said...

Let's hope I find some to recommend with 4 stars or more! :) Many of my readers/friends enjoyed 'Bride of Pendoric' and "The Mistress of Mellyn.' I need to reread them all after sixteen years, but I have seen comments that some of her novels are not as Gothic as one might wish for. Any other blog readers care to comment who have recently read her works?

lisalgreer said...

Hi, Sara, I just took a look at your blog. Wow! :) I'm glad you posted here, and I want to add you to my blogroll. What a gorgeous and informative blog you have.

As you can tell, my blog is turning out to be broader in scope since I wanted to encompass Southern Gothic, some Gothic Horror, ghost stories, etc, but I end up posting many Gothic Romance reviews. I think I need to update my tagline after posting this! :)

Anonymous said...

Thanks Lisa, I love your site and I’ve added you to my blog roll too. Southern gothic is definitely something I’d like to read more of – Donna Tartt, Joe Lansdale are favourites of mine; I’m looking forward to reading more of your reviews!

lisalgreer said...

Hi, Sara, I just loved 'The Secret History' by Donna Tartt. Sigh. That one has Gothic elements as well, I think.

I will definitely be reviewing another Lansdale sometime in the coming months since I found one in the secondhand store.

Anonymous said...

I re-read Bride of Pendorric and Kirkland Revels this year. KR was the better of the two, but neither one are very atmospheric. KR has plenty of tropes, ghostly manifestations, family legends, secret passageway, crumbling ruins, but Holt does very little in the way of sensory description, so to me it's like a black and white line drawing, a coloring book page waiting to be colored in. I guess I would give them 3/5 as well. I'll be re-reading The Shivering Sands later this year, then that's it for me.

lisalgreer said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
lisalgreer said...

I must be tired because I just rambled there in my comment and am rewriting it. I agree with you anon. I just don't think the writing was good in 'Spring..'. I have 'The House of a Thousand Lanterns' and 'Snare of Serpents' in my closet box of Gothics, so I'll read those two for sure. My general rule, I think, is to give authors a couple chances to snag me with a good book or with glimmers of genius. :)

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