Saturday, March 29, 2014
Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley
Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier is a beloved classic Gothic novel, so imagine my delight when I discovered Alena, a new book release with similar premise. In my mind, I always see the Hitchcock movie Rebecca, an old black and white film starring Joan Fontaine and Lawrence Olivier--ah a classic! After reading several pages of Alena via a Kindle sample, I quickly recommended Alena for my Book Club.
Sadly, Alena was a disappointment for me. While comparisons may be made between Alena and Rebecca, Rebecca remains far superior. The Preface of Alena is lovely and eloquent but the middle and end became dull and plain. It seemed almost as if a different author wrote the introduction. Alena, the novel’s namesake is the mysteriously absent curator of an art museum, the circumstances behind her disappearance are unknown. The main protagonist is an un-named naïve young lady who befriends a rich old man and soon finds herself appointed the new curator. It will be hard for the new curator as Alena’s presence is everywhere and constant comparisons and insecurities abound…
My recommendation is to bypass Alena and instead read these two contemporary novels:
The Vanishing by Wendy Webb
Eccentric, Mysterious, Fantastic
The Vanishing is a modern gothic novel that has more of that Rebecca-type story, including the haunting and the creepy mansion. Julia is a modern-day widow, her husband recently committed suicide after a Bernie Madeoff scheme - leaving her broke and isolated. When a wealthy family gives Julia an offer to be a live-in companion at their remote mansion, she really has nothing to lose. As soon as Julia arrives at Havenwood she starts hearing voices and starts believing that perhaps the mansion and its residents are haunted. The Vanishing sets the right tone, built the mystery and was immensely readable.
The Art Forger by B.A. Shapiro
Ambitious, Noteworthy, Unique
Claire is a struggling artist, barely able to afford living in her one room studio when she is presented a tremendous if perhaps illegal opportunity. If she paints a replica Degas, a famous gallery owner (Markel) will give her a one woman show. She does not know what plans Markel has with her replica or the original painting, but she knows that she has willingly made a deal with the devil. As her relationship with the handsome gallery owner evolves into romance, she fears what will happen to them if they get caught. And yet, her ambition and desire get the best of her, how much will she compromise to ensure that her work gets noticed?