One of the great perks (and drawbacks!) of being off work all summer is the flexibility I have with my time. I am no longer confined by weekly structure to write my post on Sunday morning after cooking and baking. But of course, by the time I’ve had a long, wonderful day of sun, sand, beach and swimming, I’m feeling too tired to post… it’s a challenge, but if this is the biggest difficulty in my life right now, I’m certainly a very lucky girl!
And I’m lucky to have discovered an awesome book last week, The Memento by Christy Ann Conlin, a Canadian writer from Nova Scotia. In 2002, she wrote a novel called Heave - it was very popular, but I've never read it. Then nothing until this book, described by the publisher as “haunting gothic elements… reimagined in this strange tale of madness, murder and dark secrets...” (http://penguinrandomhouse.ca/books/30656/memento#9780385662413). Told from the point of view of the main character, Fancy Mosher, it tells the story of the summer Fancy turns twelve, when she and her friend Art went to work at Petal’s End, a huge mansion set on the rugged shores of the Bay of Fundy (although really, it could be just any old eerie mansion located almost anywhere). Petal’s End is owned by the illustrious, infamous Parker family, who have been absent from the house for many years, and this summer, the elderly Mrs Parker is planning to return from the city for the season and revive the famous garden party. As the Parker family members return to the crumbling mansion, Art, Fancy and the other household staff make an effort to restore order from the chaos into which the house and garden have descended. But the Parkers return bringing with them all their dark family secrets, which seep into the atmosphere of the house and garden as the summer days drift by. And Fancy has her own family secrets, including her Grampie’s talent, which her drunken mother believes has been passed down to Fancy, the twelfth born, although Fancy herself is not convinced. What this summer leads to is a downward spiral into madness and delirium for many of the key players, and that’s not even at the end of the book! At about ¾ of the way through, I began to think things would have to take an upward swing, that they could not possibly get worse, but I learned that just when you think things could not possibly get any worse, they usually do. This was certainly one creepy book! Creepy children, creepy adults, creepy mansion, creepy garden… even the flowers and the swans were creepy!! And don’t hold your breath for a happy ending. It was a really compelling read, very atmospheric, but soooo long and included so much repetitive detail that I found myself losing track of the story on more than one occasion and having to go back to remind myself of what had happened. The writing was excellent, although Fancy’s sporadic use of the vernacular threw me off a bit, as it was not consistent, and in my opinion, the book would have benefited from some serious editing - at nearly 400 pages, it seemed somewhat overlong. Still, I couldn’t put it down, and would highly recommend this novel to anyone who enjoys reading gothic novels. I would rate it a 7.5 out of 10. One of my favourite parts was when, after yet another horrific tragedy befalls members of the household, Fancy’s friend Art, also just twelve years old, bemoans the passing of his summer and his youth and proclaims that he wants the summer to be fun: “I just want it to be fun!” That sums up the story perfectly - sorry Art, there is no fun to be had in this novel! So if you are in the mood for a not-at-all-uplifting-but-very-creepy-and-compelling gothic novel, this is the book for you! Enjoy!!
That’s all for now. Daylight is fading and so am I. Have a great week, and happy summer reading!
Bye for now…