Mariana – Susanna Kearsley

And a happy birthday to Majel Barrett Roddenberry.

As usual, I wandered into this Kindle book from Netgalley with little knowledge of what to expect; I knew there was a sort of time travel involved, and that GR friends enjoyed it, and I was optimistic. That’s odd – I didn’t make a single note or post a single real update as I read this? I think I was too busy devouring it.

I was delighted. The language, the tone, the pacing – all reminded me of one of the fine gothics, Mary Stewart or Barbara Michaels – or of Hitchcock in a non-murderous mood. Rebecca, maybe – although neither Rebecca nor Hitchcock tended toward the unabashedly magical as did Mariana.

It all begins with a family car trip when Julia Beckett was five years old; her father got lost, a cat ran across the road and almost got itself – and them – killed, and looking out the window at that moment Julia saw a little house which she immediately and unreasoningly identified as hers. Years later, as an adult and a working artist who has come into a bit of money, Julia stumbles across another cat – or is it? – and the same house, and still has that feeling of possessiveness, and this time she takes steps to make it true. Before long, strange things begin happening. Julia finds herself seeing through the eyes of – living the life of – a girl three centuries dead, Mariana.

I have to say I was not completely enamored of the version of reincarnation en bloc as depicted here. And I didn’t love the last-minute switcheroo; it didn’t feel right at all. I thought all along that Julia belonged with Iain rather than Geoffrey, but the fact of it was that she was with Gregory, and they were becoming quite serious. For that to change so abruptly purely because of what happened in the past is going to cause some serious pain to Geoffrey, and require quite a bit of explanation. That aside, the two time periods were beautifully handled, as how Julia handled hopping back and forth between the two. Well, mostly. I was left with questions about what was happening to Julia in the present day while her consciousness was in the past; it seems a bit of a stretch that no one ever made note of or passed comment on her odd behavior.

I loved the characters that peopled the book. They’re great folks, dimensional and quirky, but not so quirky it becomes a sitcom. I was happy in Julia’s vocation as an artist; it rang true, and yet didn’t sting. The relationships in the book were well-built; I liked the surprise Julia’s brother throws at her, as a sort of emphasis of both her distraction and the depth of the book’s background. The only relationship I hesitate over is the one most affected by the denouement, as above; I wish there had been added detail or an epilogue or something like that. It was the only thing keeping this at four stars.

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2 Responses to Mariana – Susanna Kearsley

  1. calmgrove says:

    This mix of romance and timeswitch reminded me of a book I was sent for review, The Legacy by Jill Rowan (review here: http://www.librarything.com/work/11853340/79137316).

    Okay, it’s not about reincarnation, but the flavour is there. Though a bit out of my usual reading sphere, I did enjoy it, though not enough to necessarily want to re-read it.

  2. stewartry says:

    That sounds like a lot of fun, thank you! I just wishlisted it so I don’t forget about it.

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