Mariana by Susanna Kearsley (thoughts)
By now I think we’ve established that I’m a bit of a Kearsley fangirl. She’s become one of my go-to comfort authors, which is a difficult niche to break into! So when I saw Mariana on Netgalley (way back in March) I requested it straight away and got to reading it not soon after that. After a few chapters, though, I was a bit confused; while the book was good, and I was definitely enjoying myself, it felt more like an early work rather than an established author’s latest novel. So I googled and discovered that this was actually one of her first books, published in 1993, and it was on Netgalley because Sourcebooks has reissued it. With that mystery solved, I was free to get back to enjoying the story!
Mariana is a time travel novel, but the time travel is different from that seen in The Rose Garden. Rather than actually physically going back in time, Julia (the heroine) only travels mentally, seeing the actions take place from Mariana’s viewpoint, and without the ability to act herself. Meanwhile, much like in du Maurier’s House on the Strand, Julia’s present body walks around and does the same things Mariana’s doing, which makes things a bit awkward for her. ;) Anyway, I enjoyed seeing Kearsley approaching the same idea from a different angle; while all of her books have the same ‘feel,’ they’re unique enough to stand as individuals, which I believe is the sign of a great author.
Wow, I’m rambling today, aren’t I? I woke up this morning with some flulike symptoms, and am currently running a fever, so you’ll have to excuse the incoherence. My favourite part of Mariana was Julia and the present-day people in her life. Her brother, a philosophy-enjoying vicar, was quite fun when he appeared, and the friends Julia makes after moving into her new house are all welcoming and amusing. The dynamics between them all, especially as Julia begins trying to make connections between the past and present, played out well. As always, Kearsley also brings a marvelous sense of place to her writing: Greywethers (the house) felt quite real to me, and I could almost see the countryside Julia kept tramping through. The storyline from the past struck me as a bit weaker, with the characters and plot feeling somewhat ‘stock,’ but watching Julia’s reactions to both her own time travel and being forced to experience things without affecting them was powerful. The ending is quite fun too, if not terribly surprising, although I do wish Kearsley had given us a few more pages to savour things. ;)
So, I very much enjoyed Mariana and would happily recommend to anyone looking for a well written, engrossing, comforting novel. If this was my first experience with Kearsley, I’m sure it would make me want to track down more of her books right away. As it is, having already experienced quite a bit of her writing, this does feel like an earlier work. It’s still wonderful, and I’d be happy to reread it (in fact, I might be in my library’s queue for the ebook for just that reason, hehe), but it didn’t live up to my two favourites, Shadowy Horses and The Rose Garden. I dearly hope that Kearsley is working on a new novel, but until then I’m glad that Sourcebooks seems to be reissuing her backlist, which I’ve found frustratingly difficult to get ahold of here in the States. Hooray for favourite authors who are also dependable! :D