Tuesday, August 28, 2012

The Drowning House (Elizabeth Black)

When I first read the synopsis for Elizabeth Black’s The Drowning House, I was immediately intrigued.  It sounded completely like my cup of tea, with the synopsis focusing heavily on a Galveston resident hung by her hair from a chandelier during the Great Hurricane of 1900.  If this was the primary focus of the book, that would be great, but Black is all over the place with her writing…so much so that things get boring after awhile.

The Drowning House tells the story of Clare Porterfield, whose marriage is unraveling due to the accidental death of her young daughter.  Clare is asked to organize a photograph exhibition in Galveston, the place where she grew up until she was sent away because of her part in a tragedy.  During her childhood, Clare became involved with Will Carraday’s son, Patrick, and longs to see him upon her return to her hometown.  However, she must deal with the ghosts in her own closet, including the memories of what happened to her long ago and what happened to Stella, a Carraday ancestor (and supposedly the owner of the “hair in the chandelier”).

I wanted to like The Drowning House so much more than I did.  The characters are unsympathetic, with Patrick being made into this Heathcliff type man.  Black didn’t get me to care about any of the characters’ fates, and I found myself just trying to “get through” this book instead of enjoying it.  I’m not even quite sure what genre Black is going for here, but in any great book, the puzzle pieces must come together.  These pieces, of which there are many, do not.


Monday, August 27, 2012

Barefoot (Elin Hilderbrand)

I picked up Elin Hilderbrand’s Barefoot because I loved her other books so much.  Her latest, Summerland, is outstanding, and I also greatly enjoyed last year’s Silver Girl.  In Silver Girl especially, she had the Jodi Picoult-like knack of making the reader feel for unsympathetic characters.  I read The Beach Club in the last few weeks, which was a nice, breezy summer read.  Barefoot, while not my favorite by-far, still manages to tell a good story.

As is usually the case with Hilderbrand’s books, the setting is Nantucket.  Three women come here to “escape” their problems.  Vicki, diagnosed with lung cancer, brings her two young boys and leaves her husband at home.  Brenda, Vicki’s sister, is just recently fired from her job as a professor due to a liason with one of her students and an accidental case of vandalism.  Melanie, Vicki’s friend, is hurting over her husband’s affair and finds out that she is finally pregnant at the same time.  When these women make their entrance at the Nantucket airport, a worker, Josh, notices that they seem very unhappy.  As Josh finds himself intertwining with their lives, he must make some hard decisions.

Some reviews of Barefoot have been negative because some feel that the characters are unsympathetic.  While this works in Silver Girl, it does not really work here.  While I loved reading Vicki’s story and was anxious to know what would happen to her, I could not find myself wanting to read about Melanie, Josh, or especially Brenda.  However, as is always the case with Hilderbrand, she is a wonderful storyteller, and any book written by her is worth your time.


Monday, August 20, 2012

The Beach Club (Elin Hilderbrand)

Elin Hilderbrand was an author I knew nothing about until I discovered she grew up in a neighboring town.  I started off reading Silver Girl last year and then continued with Summerland this year.  Even though she is a great summer read, she is by no means a frivolous one.  Her stories revolve around characters you truly grow to care about.  More than possibly any other author I’ve read, you can get completely lost in her books, with hours passing before you realize you read half of the novel already.

The Beach Club is an older novel, and, while not quite as good as Silver Girl and Summerland, still an intriguing story.  Mack is the manager of Bill and Therese’s Nantucket hotel/beach club.  Having lost his parents in a tragedy, he must decide what to do with the family farm and with his relationship with his girlfriend, Maribel.  Lacey is an 88-year-old fixture at the hotel, spending every summer there.  Jem, who quickly falls in love with Maribel, is happy to get a job as a bellman under Vance’s watch.  Love comes to the island from Aspen, after Bill offers her a job as a front desk clerk, but she has an ulterior motive.  Each character interweaves seamlessly with the others, creating a story that is summer breezy at times, but has real heart always.

With the exception of a line involving Cecily (Bill and Therese’s daughter) that could have come straight out of a romance novel with Fabio on the cover, I found myself hanging on every word.  I’m reading Barefoot right now and loving it, and I can’t wait to read Hilderbrand’s others.  She is a gifted storyteller whose novels are just right for the beach or a nice summer escape in the dreary cold winter.