Friday, September 24, 2010
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.