Monday, 5 April 2010

Book Review : The Lace Reader by Brunonia Barry.



Product Details:
Publisher: Harper Press
Paperback, 400 pages
Release date: February 4th 2010.
Rating: 3 out of 5.

Plot Description:

Drawn by family. Driven by fear. Haunted by fate. Would knowing the future be a gift or a burden? Or even a curse!? The Whitney women of Salem, Massachusetts are renowned for reading the future in the patterns of lace. But the future doesn't always bring good news -- as Towner Whitney knows all too well. When she was just fifteen her gift sent her whole world crashing to pieces. She predicted -- and then witnessed -- something so horrific that she vowed never to read lace again, and fled her home and family for good. Salem is a place of ghosts for Towner, and she swore she would never return. Yet family is a powerful tie. So it is that fifteen years later, Towner finds herself back in Salem. Her beloved Great Aunt Eva has suddenly disappeared -- and when you've lived a life like Eva's, that could mean real trouble. But Salem is wreathed in sickly shadows and whispered half-memories. It's fast becoming clear that the ghosts of Towner's fractured past have not been brought fully into the light. And with them comes the threat of terrifying new disaster. A literary page-turner with depth, narrative power and a story that novels like 'The Thirteenth Tale' can only dream of, 'The Lace Reader' is a bewitching and tightly plotted read.

I was pretty excited to read this book, but it proved to be somewhat of a disappointment for me.  I loved the premise of the book, and  was all ready to settle down to a gothic mystery involving witchcraft, fortune telling and long kept family secrets, and while all these elements and more are in place, Barry takes them in a totally different direction to what I was expecting.   

First off, even though the book is overloaded with plot elements, it’s actually very slow moving, and for me it was even boring in parts.  For the first one hundred pages or so, nothing much happens.  Also, I found the idea of lace-reading itself quite unappealing, so that didn’t help with my enjoyment of the book.  A lot of the dialogue is long and rambling, overly descriptive when it doesn’t need to be, while frustratingly Barry shifts between past, present and dream worlds with a fervour which is hard to keep track of .  

At the start of the book we are introduced to out female protagonist Towner Whitney.  She introduces herself  by telling the reader to never believe her because she lies ‘all the time’ and is ‘a crazy woman’.  She has even lied to us about her real name.  From this point on I questioned everything she said as a narrator.   It was a good move on my part, that’s all I’ll say.  I never really warmed to Towner, which was maybe another reason why I didn’t really enjoy the book.  When Barry decides to introduce a romantic interest for Towner, thus adding yet another plot element to the book, it didn’t really work for me.  I guess I found her quite cold and distant, and the romantic aspect of the story quite forced.

One thing I did like about the book was the setting of Salem, the merging between past and present and the historical elements of the book. This was well crafted.  There was, however, a religious aspect to the book which I really didn't enjoy.

Without giving too much away, I will say that the reader may be surprised by the ending of the book.  I had figured out elements of it, and I thought the ending was both haunting and sad.  It introduced some disturbing aspects to the story, and also gave me a greater understanding of Towner.

Overall, this is an OK read.  It’s probably a book that I would enjoy more on a second reading because I gained an entirely new perspective at the end of the book, but I’m not sure I would read more from this author. I believe her new book revisits some of the characters in The Lace Reader but I’m not really sure that I want to meet them again.

- The Amazon description of this book points out that The Lace Reader  has a story that The Thirteenth Tale 'can only dream of'.  Believe me, The Thirteenth Tale is a much better read.




10 comments :

  1. It's so hard to read a book when the narrator isn't relatable. You made lots of good points about things that I can't stand, like dialogue that should've been cut, slow beginnings, and forced love interests.

    The book does look intriguing, though! The ending sounds interesting (though would i read a book just for the ending? Hmmm xD)

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  2. Leanna, your reaction to this book is similar to what my book group discussed when we read it. I went back and forth with like and dislike. I ended somewhere in the middle I think. I, too, would have liked more about Salem and I thought that was what I was getting. In any case, I'm going to try her new book which will be out in a few months. Thanks for sharing!

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  3. Damn the book summary had so much potential, it sucks to hear it was a disappointment. I hate when that happens...

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  4. Thank you for your review--I was wondering about this book. Too bad when you want to like a book, but it falls short. Do you know of any good books that actually are centered in the Salem witch trials? I would be interested in reading one.

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  5. Great review and I appreciate your honesty! I have a copy of this and I am planning to read it eventually and oh yes, The Thirtenth Tale was amazing!

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  6. @Bookalicious - Thirteenth Tale is on my list of all time faves. Great book!

    @Kim - I haven't read anything that's centered around the Salem witch trials. I'd love too, though. I'll have a look around later to see if I can find anything, or if anybody else knows of some, maybe they can post here.

    @Kay - I went back and forth between liking and disliking the book too. I landed somewhere in the middle. It had great potential, it just didn't really work for me. I'd read some mixed reviews of this one before I read it, and I can see why now. Let me know what you think of the new book when you get around to reading it?

    @ Linna & Eleni - maybe you guys should give it a go. You might have an entirely different view of the book than I did.

    Thanks for the comments! :)

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  7. Kim- I did a search on librarything, and The Heretic's Daughter by Kathleen Kent seems to be centered around the witch trials. I haven't read it, but I'm adding it to my wish list.

    Take a look: http://www.librarything.com/work/5352636

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  8. Is the ending worth the slow parts? I honestly cannot stand it if a book is going too slowly, but if I just saw the synopsis, I'd have jumped on it.

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  9. I think the book is worth a read, but in a lot of the reviews I've read, many people have hated the ending. I didn't hate the ending as I predicted that was the direction in which the book was going, so it made sense to me.

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  10. Thanks for the honest review. I've had my eye on this one for a while. I think I'll wait to read it through my library rather than buying it.

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