Friday, April 20, 2012

Mariana by Susanna Kearsley

In The Book Rat's Book Chat discussion a couple of months ago, the subject was Buzz Words and Deal Breakers: things that draw us to and repel us from potential reads. One of my buzz words -- along with dystopian, post-apocalyptic, and many others -- is "gothic." 

In the true sense, gothic literature has a fairly defined set of elements. Today, you can (and I have) pick up any number of books being described as "gothic" and come up with something completely different in each one. The term "gothic" seems to have evolved into a something that's used to describe a certain style and atmosphere evoked by an author's writing. The gothic romance of the twentieth century -- Mary Stewart and Daphne du Maurier, for example -- retained some of the core elements while moving away from the horror aspect present in much of that earlier gothic lit.  

In truth, I'm a fan of almost every variation of "gothic" tale. Victorian style ghost stories and horror, Jane Eyre and Rebecca styled "romance" -- it all works for me. The key is atmosphere in my opinion. 

It is this atmosphere that is present in Susanna Kearsley's Mariana, a deliciously enthralling tale with a bit of a supernatural twist.

A small inheritance allows Julia Beckett to purchase the home of her dreams. From the moment she steps foot inside the house, she knows that she is linked to its past. When she begins to experience things as a girl from the 17th century, Julia has to wonder if she's gone mad. But when she discovers that the girl was in fact very real, she realizes something much more strange is occurring. 

Kearsley's style is definitely reminiscent of that of Daphne du Maurier. There is no horror in Mariana, as the early gothic lit would promise, but the atmosphere and tone of the story does hold a hint of dread and something terrible in Mariana's past. At it's heart, Mariana is a satisfyingly romantic story about past lives and timeless love. 

Mariana was originally published in the early 90s and is a new re-release from Sourcebooks, who also published Kearsley's most recent titles, The Winter Sea and The Rose Garden.

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