Sunday, June 16, 2013

Seduction, by M.J. Rose - a Genre-Blurring Novel

This is a tough book to review.  Let me start by saying that I liked it.  I gave it a 2.5 out of 4.  And I  recommend it.  But I do have a major issue with it.

Here is a description of the book:  "Part thriller, part historical mystery with supernatural elements, and a dash of romance."  Huh?  What does that mean, exactly?  In fact, though, it's all of these things.  Here's what it doesn't have much of for me - an emotional connection.  Do you remember when I made such a big deal about not connecting emotionally with Attica Locke's The Cutting Season (9/5/12)?  Well, I have that here, too, especially in the 1st half of the book.  I couldn't figure out what was bothering me. Then, on page 182 (almost exactly half-way through the book), I got it.  The story is told matter-of-factly, with no emotion at all.

Fortunately, the 2nd half got me more involved.  It's a little like Gone Girl.  The 1st half of that book is good, and the 2nd half rocks.  This isn't nearly as dramatic.  The 1st half is good, and the 2nd half is somewhat better.  But I do start to care more, and there's a scene on page 211 (out of 368) where I gave a little gasp.  That's good, right?  But maybe you would actually like to know what the book is about.  That seems important.  I'm going to quote the jacket of the book.  I don't usually do that, but, otherwise, I'm not sure how to encapsulate the story.  Here it is:

Recovering from a great loss, mythologist Jac L'Etoile thinks that throwing herself into work will distract her from her grief.  In the hopes of uncovering a secret about the island's mysterious Celtic roots, she arrives on Jersey and is greeted by ghostly Neolithic monuments, medieval castles and hidden caves.  But the man who has invited her there, a troubled soul named Theo Gaspard, hopes she'll help him discover something quite different-transcripts of Hugo's lost conversations with someone he called the Shadow of the Sepulcher.  Central to his heritage, these are the papers his grandfather died trying to find.  Neither Jac nor Theo anticpate that the mystery surrounding Victor Hugo will threaten their sanity and put their very lives at stake.

In 1843, Victor Hugo's cherished daughter died.  10 years later, he comes to the Isle of Jersey and conducts hundreds of seances in an effort to contact her.  The book goes back and forth between Jac and Theo in the present and Hugo's experiences on the isle of Jersey over 150 years earlier.  A lot of the story centers around Hugo's writings to this mysterious Shadow of the Sepulcher.

I respect M.J.'s writing.  And I like the fact that the book gets better as it goes along.  It simply never really grabs me.  This is M.J.'s 13th novel.  Obviously, there are a lot of people who think that her novels are pretty darn good:

A compelling page-turner....Once you catch a whiff, you will be enchanted. - Associated Press

M.J. Rose is a bold, unflinching writer and her resolute honesty puts her in a class by herself. - Laura Lippman

Resonates with spirit, blending myth with reality, tragedy with triumph, pain with joy.  You'll find yourself questioning everything you believe-and wanting more. - Steve Berry

I would suggest you read M.J. Rose and decide for yourself.  This could be one of those books/authors that connects with some readers and not so much with others (like me).

INTERESTING NOTE:  M.J. was having trouble writing the sections about Victor Hugo.  So she wrote them in longhand with pen, ink, and bottle in order to simulate Hugo writing in the 1850's.  That's pretty cool.

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