Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Book: The Lace Reader

This was this month's book-club pick. We met and discussed last night. Here's the consensus:

What We Liked:
We loved the fantastic sense of place: modern-day Salem, Massachusetts. A very good feel for being a "local" in a very touristy town (not unlike living in San Francisco or any other highly popular city). A fantastic family mystery told in a page-turning style. A sympathetic and interesting main character. We all really enjoyed the book, being completely caught up in the story.

Towner (real name: Sophya) is called back to Salem when her great-aunt (or is she her grandmother? another point of discussion last night) is missing. After having escaped Salem for so long (after innumerable family tragedies), Towner is loathe to return. However, she does, and is immediately swept back into her family drama. Having lost her twin sister when she was a teenager, Towner recoils from reconnecting with her past. But her past rushes up to greet her in the form of bewildered, heartbroken ex-boyfriends; horrifyingly abusive ex-uncles; reclusive, isolated mothers; and a deep mystery that just won't die.

What We Didn't Love So Much:
This book, while totally engrossing and enjoyable, was plagued by red herrings, trails to nowhere, and a confusing family tree. We spent a long time trying to figure out how everyone was related, and puzzling over the timeline of events. The main character, Towner, is admittedly an unreliable narrator (which leads to a big twist at the end, which I totally did not see coming, but other people picked up on clues more than I did), which makes the entire story the tiniest bit murky, but never once were we bored, or uninterested in the story.

We wanted more about "lace reading" -- fortune-telling, using hand-tatted lace. We wanted more explanation about what exactly happened at certain points. We wanted resolution for some of these tantalizing side journeys which were never completed.

In spite of all these small flaws, it was agreed: we all completely enjoyed the book.

Pardon the terrible book review, but I am tired and unable to really come up with more to say about it. It was good. It would fall under the category of "great for travel" or "good vacation book" or "enjoyable vaguely gothic page-turner with a touch of romance, mystery, suspense."

Book club, however, was fantastic. Great dinner, lovely friends, interesting discussion. I nearly fell asleep by 9:30 (even after a double espresso) so had to call it quits before I wanted to, but it was a lovely evening.

Next book pick is still TBA. Her Fearful Symmetry was tossed out as a suggestion, and I threw The Little Stranger into the ring as well. A few others were named... we'll know by the end of the week what it'll be.

Will now stop babbling incoherently. Ta!


Ally said...

I was kind of underwhelmed by The Lace Reader, but not because it was bad or anything. It just wasn't very memorable. I remember wanting more about the actual lace reading too.

I'm on the library wait list for Her Fearful Symmetry and I cannot wait to get my hands on it.

Tammie said...

this book sounds like one i may enjoy. it doesnt sound like the best book ever, but just an easy read.

i really want to read her fearful symmetry. ive almost bought it a few times but just cant pay full price for books anymore.

Lu @ Regular Rumination said...

I gave up on this one, sadly. I might pick it up again one day, I'm holding on to it, but it definitely didn't catch me this time around.

Nymeth said...

It was not incoherent! A big twist and an unreliable narrator, you say? That alone is enough to interest me.

Trapunto said...

I wanted to know more about lace reading too. I liked the chapter headings from the manual but they were a little vague. I wanted examples. I also wanted more time with the aunt--admittedly a little difficult, since she was dead! This was a hard book for me to empathize with. Maybe because I once lived very near the places she described, and it was a bad time in my life. I agree her sense of place is exceptional, though.

Daphne said...

Ally: ooh, let me know what you think of it! I've heard mixed reviews, although I loved Time Traveler's Wife.

Tammie: I think you'd like it. It had some holes and unfinished business, but it was a good read. I can't buy real books anymore either. Viva la library!

Lu: I can see that. I was in just the right mood for it.

Ana: I think you would enjoy this one, actually.

Trapunto: yes, the great-aunt was one of the best characters! too bad that she was dead!

stefanie said...

Hmm. I think I will skip this one. I would be too frustrated by plot lines and elements getting introduced and then disappearing.

Kim said...

This is not a book to read right before bed; you have to be clear and awake to catch every clue throughout it.

I couldn't put this book down and yet I agree the not so good aspects in your review, were true. Yet- I was rivited to it and read it every day as often as I could squeeze in. I had to read the last two chapters twice, on two days, in order to make sure I got it all figured out right. The clues are so subtle.
I love history, psychic stories and events, and I have a collection of lace from antique to couture dress lace. I found the subject matter fascinating and it has me thinking!
I am looking forward to reading her newer book now, The Map of True Places or something near to that.

Anonymous said...

I was a bit disappointed with The Lace Reader. I was mildly interested in the characters and storyline, and figured out the ending long before I got there.

Also, if there wasn't any electricity on Yellow Dog Island, how on earth did May charge the cell phone she used to call Rafferty towards the end of the novel? Just a personal gripe. :)