Ehhhhh, I probably should have just kept reading last week like I meant to. This last part just doesn’t have the same momentum as the rest, and while sheer interest in the story kept me going, it was not nearly as exciting as the previous sections. But hey, let’s talk about that, shall we?
1. Now that it’s all said and done; what did you think of the book? Did you see the ending coming? Um, well. Let’s see. I called the dead bodies, I did not call Dom’s secret, I called Sabine’s over-interest if not the reason for it, and I did not manage to call Rachel’s pathological lying though in retrospect it seems pretty obvious, I definitely did not call Bénédicte’s recordings, I totally called the ghost. So, overall… no, I did not see the ending coming! I am actually fairly disappointed in the ending for being essentially a giant info-dump when Lawrenson did such a good job of weaving in details throughout the story — I would have been content to have fewer answers, better written, I think.
2. What do you think of the characters? Lawrenson took us on a twisty little ride there, I had trouble deciding who was good and who wasn’t for a while there! What do you think of Dom? Of Sabine? Rachel? I can understand much better now why Dom was insistent on not sharing his deep dark secret and insistent that it had nothing to do with Our Narrator. I still don’t really agree with it, but I understand it. Sabine, I have no idea why she was keeping herself a secret, and so I continue to be very irked with her especially with the insinuations and all. Rachel, I am much more intrigued by — I really didn’t give much care to her throughout the book, but with the ending and all it might have been nice to see more of her in the story to take off some of that exposition in the end! Our Narrator, I’d like to see what happens to her the next time Dom tells a half-truth. I don’t think she’s as comfortable as she thinks she is.
3. Pierre was such a conflicted character. In the end, do you think he killed Marthe and Annette, or did the fall to their deaths because of their blindness? Oh, he totally killed them. He lied about them leaving and blaming Bénédicte, and the fact that he knew he could go get Marthe’s stuff shows he knew she wasn’t coming back for it. And it really fits in with his completely insane character that he would rather torture Bénédicte for the rest of her life than get any money out of Les Genevriers.
4. The book is being compared to Rebecca and Daphne du Maurier’s writing. Do you think the book lives up to that description? I swear I will get around to reading Rebecca. Someday.
5. Did you have any problems with the book? Narration? Plot? The back and forth between two different characters and times? No, I generally liked the format of the book and the way Lawrenson brought the two stories slowly together. I’m just still quite miffed about the ending. In looking back through the book to make sure I’m remembering things correctly to answer these questions, I happened upon this line again: “All of which goes to show how dangerous it is [. . .] to want tidy storytelling when real life is not like that.” And I just stared in the general direction of Lawrenson and thought, then why did you work so hard to answer all these darn questions?! Let me have some ambiguity, here. Though the more I think about the ending, the more I’m thinking that it’s not really Lawrenson making answers for everything, but instead Our Narrator trying to rationalize everything that she has done and that has happened to her. Oh, this book, it is giving me a headache but largely in a good way.
6. Do you think Lawrenson tied both stories together well in the end? Is there anything she could/should have done differently? I do like the way the stories came together, and how Bénédicte’s narrative has this sort of extra layer to it, not just of Lawrenson placing it within Our Narrator’s narrative, but of Our Narrator placing it within her own narrative, and so suddenly all of those ghostly things that are happening to Our Narrator ring rather less true. [Insert thoughtful ooooooooooh here.]
7. One problem I had with the novel is the reliability of the narrators. Do you think any of them were telling the truth? Which ones? Oh, I don’t trust any of them, which is really how it should be. I can’t find a specific reason to doubt Bénédicte’s story as told, but I still get the sense that she did a lot of lying to herself, at least, throughout her life. Our Narrator is more obviously doubt-able, with her constant reminders to herself that she’s getting a bit hysterical and her own omissions to the other characters. And if that’s what she’s willing to admit to, I mean, there’s probably more to it. And of course the other characters we only see through these two (possibly only through Our Narrator? What’s she leaving out of Bénédicte’s story?), so I declare them entirely unreliable!
So, true story, I’m way more excited about this book after going through and answering these questions. I stand by my statement about the momentum of this section, but I’m appreciating the results of this section rather more as I think about them. By the time I write up my regular review of this book, I may like the ending even more, but I make no promises! How about you guys?