Monday, May 07, 2012
Author: Susanna Kearsley
Genre: Historical fiction, fantasy
Publisher: Corgi, 1995
Read for: Review
Julia fell in love with the little farmhouse the moment she saw it as a young child. When she encounters it later (and discovers it is for sale), she takes the inheritance money she has been saving and buys it immediately. However, after spending a few days in the house, she realizes it possesses more than charm. The house is haunted by memories and ghosts of the past, and what confuses Julia most is that they seem to be memories she already possesses.
Mariana is a charming tale of love lost and regained set in an idyllic corner of English countryside. Julia Becket, used to her fast-paced life in London, enjoys sinking into her career as an illustrator in a bit more isolation, with the time to go on long walks and enjoy her swiftly made new friends -- Vivian, the friendly barkeeper at the local tavern, Iain, the quietly passionate and perfectionistic gardener, and Geoffrey, the handsome tenant of the large estate on the hill. However, Julia begins to see shadows and ghosts around her home, as well as blacking out for long periods of time, in which she exists as Mariana, an inhabitant of her house from many centuries before.
I loved the premise of Mariana. I found it to be unique and fascinating. While Julia is initially disturbed by her vivid and all-absorbing visions into the past, she becomes emotionally involved with the people she meets, and desperate to know what happens to them. While I've read books with a time-travel aspect to them, I'd never read a book where a character moves between two time periods. I enjoyed going back with Julia and trying to solve the mystery of why the house is haunted by a pervading aura of sorrow and what exactly happened between Mariana and the handsome, roguish man who pursues her against the wishes of Mariana's exacting, heartless uncle, Jabez.
I also enjoyed the romantic aspect of the story. Both Julia and Mariana have love interests, and we as the readers have the opportunity to experience both stories through the women's eyes. Mariana's story has already occurred, and the truths of it are revealed in small bursts of insight as Julia experiences them through her visions of Mariana. That story is tragic and moving, and was for me the most compelling part of Mariana. Julia's story is a bit slower to develop, and to be honest, felt slightly stilted to me throughout the book, until in the last few pages, when crucial information is revealed that makes everything fit together wonderfully.
One aspect of Mariana that made it a less-than-stellar experience for me was the writing. While it wasn't inherently flawed -- everything was correct, as far as I could tell -- it was slightly lackluster, presenting events and emotions dutifully but without any strong vividness or aesthetic. While nothing was essentially wrong, it made what could have been an absolutely gorgeous book into what was simply a light and entertaining read for me.
Mariana has a unique plot and delightful supporting characters. The writing was a bit disappointing for me, but Mariana will still present an enjoyable tale for many readers.
Warning: Scene of sensuality (no anatomy), some violence