Susanna Kearsley's novel Mariana-- a winner of the Catherine Cookson Fiction Prize in 1993-- is a novel I'd been waiting for and wanting to read for a while after a recommendation from blog reader Hannah. I was not disappointed, and this novel is one I'll be picking up again to read in the future. I only wish I had read this novel first of Kearsley's that I've read, but I'm glad that I got around to it, and I'll be seeking out her other novels.
Julia Beckett sees Greyweathers in Exbury as a child and is drawn to it. When she comes into a tidy sum from a dead relative and is looking to move out of the city to work on her illustrations, she buys the old estate in the English countryside. She meets a colorful cast of characters from the Lord of the local manor, Geoff DeMornay to Iain Sumner, a gardener and complex man as well as Vivian, a local bar owner. When Julia starts having strange experiences and losing time, she has to consider a crazy idea that her brother Tom poses: that she is the reincarnation of Mariana, a 17th century woman.
Characterization 5/5: The characters in this novel are vividly drawn and round. I loved them all other than the villains. Richard DeMornay stands as one of the best romantic protagonists I've seen in any novel, and the end of this novel was the most satisfying that I've read in a long time.
Plot 5/5: This novel is about 375 pages in length, and there is not a wasted word. So often I've read novels in this genre that go on and on with repetitions and details that don't add to the story (a few I've reviewed on this blog come to mind). The plot of Mariana is tight, and everything in the novel advances it further. Multiple storylines keep the tension going.
Atmospheric elements/spooky stuff 4/5: The time travel aspects, ghosts, and settings are quite spooky.
Literary elements 5/5: This novel is well researched and smart.
Rating: 4+ stars ****+
If you like ghosts, time travel, 17th century and British/Irish History, and great love stories, this novel is for you. I honestly stayed up until 2 a.m. reading last night because I just had to finish the novel. I haven't done that in a very long time. I think this novel can hold its own with a classic like Rebecca.