Sunday, April 25, 2010

Notes on The Dark Tide

I didn't finish Andrew Gross's The Dark Tide. Again, I think it comes back to characterization--I didn't know that was so important to me until I started reading thrillers. Other genre fiction, like Romance, Mystery, and Sci Fi, in my experience often have fewer narrators and main players and spend more time describing their thoughts, feelings, and motivations.

As far as the other appeal elements in The Dark Tide, the tone is sad, scary, mysterious, hopeful. I'd call it a fast-paced international financial thriller, and story line themes include oil importing, investing, cargo docks, business vs. muscle and intimidation, working in and beyond the police department, sailing, upper-class life in Greenwich, CT, guilt, losing loved ones, and the emotional toll of one's child at risk.

I started the Thriller & Suspense Reading Challenge to familiarize myself with the genre, but I may have to read more mysteries than I had initially intended. Psychological suspense also tends to explore characters more in depth.

I'll do some research, too, but does anyone have recommendations or know of lists of thrillers with strong characterization?

Friday, April 9, 2010

RAview: Fingersmith

I'm going through a breakup, and Sarah Waters's Fingersmith was thankfully a satisfying companion. The tone is dark enough to make me feel that at least I don't have it that bad, but it is not so emotionally devastating as I feared it could be as an overall reading experience.

The beginning of the book feels like a depraved romance novel--there is a Gothic mansion, a young, sheltered ward, and a dark, mysterious gentleman. It is a story of cons, love, trust, nature vs. nurture, knowing and perceiving.

The book is full of foreshadowing. It is suspenseful and feels like a fast read as one races to understand the whys of the plot points. Characterization is strong, and readers identify with scared, confused, angry characters trying to make sense of their situations. Two alternating narratives tell the stories of two girls similar yet living within different worlds. Lots of fully developed side characters appear but the story remains focused on a few main players.

Storyline themes include the London underworld of thieves, madhouses, a perverted, suffocating, sequestered upper class lifestyle, and being a lady's maid.

This is a sketchy write up, but the point of Readers' Advisory is to address how a book makes you feel rather than the plot. Plus this book is way better if you go into it with nothing, and I feel as though the reviewing community has been relatively good about keeping the experience pure for other readers.

I was reading this book at the same time as Sacred Hearts. They have similar themes of trapped and cloistered young women and the affect this has on their mental health, but the overall tone of the books is very different. The leisurely pace of Dunant's book also makes it dissimilar.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

RAview: Sacred Hearts

Sarah Dunant's Sacred Hearts is detailed, lush, slowly unfolding historical fiction. In The Readers Advisory Guide to Genre Fiction (which, unfortunately, I had to return to the library before I finished with and is expensive), Saricks devotes a chapter to Women's Lives and Relationships, similar to what many call women's fiction, but this category is not self-contained (i.e., books in other genres are often good for readers who like this type of fiction), and Sacred Hearts is one of them.

The narrative perspective switches between two women in a convent in 16th-century Italy--one a young novice who is in love and was unwillingly sent there by her family, and the other an older nun who provides medical care for the other nuns and comes to grow in dealing with the young woman who seems to be wrecking havoc on the peace of the convent.

Details of early medicine, religious ecstasies, convent life, freedom, convent politics, gardening, explorations of faith. The tone is lush and warm but at times strange, fearful, and suspenseful. Faith is manifest as a sort of creepy magic that may or may not be real [at least to a heathen like me], but there is a sense of comfort and belonging that the convent also evokes--this variable tone likely comes from the two main characters' perspectives.

The best readalike from my own reading is Lisa See's Peony in Love. It shares a theme of young women with no control over their lives taking back a sort of power (albeit self-destructive) by starving themselves. It's rich historical fiction about women and love and feeling lost. The tone of Peony in Love is darker and sadder, and the elements of the supernatural are more pronounced.