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The Ghost Orchid (thoughts)

September 4, 2009

rip4As a quick administrative note, I’ve added the vlog to my library loot post, so those of you who read via a reader and want to hear me ramble on can now do so!

When I picked up all of my R.I.P. books from the library last week, I immediately grabbed Carol Goodman’s The Ghost Orchid and read it straight through. And it was the perfect way to begin the challenge!

The book switches between present-day and the late 1800s, but both storylines are set at the Bosco estate in upstate New York. Back in the 1800s, Bosco was a private estate belonging to Aurora Latham, who had the money to satisfy every whim, from being in an Italian engineer to design elaborate fountains and gardens throughout the grounds to bringing in a famous medium to conduct seances and speak to her dead children. In the present day, Bosco is a creative retreat for artists/writers/etc., and Ellis Brooks has been accepted to work on her first book: a historical novel based on the medium Corinth Blackwell and her seances at Bosco. There’s everything you would want in a gothic story: angry child ghosts, twisted relationships, secret tunnels, and more. It completely fulfilled my expectations.

ghostorchidI really love Goodman’s writing style. She knows how to mix tension and creepiness in with humour, and she’s not afraid to poke fun at the modern literary ‘scene.’ Ellis Brooks is totally intimidated by two much more famous authors, Nat who wrote one novel to critical acclaim and has yet to write another ten years later and Bethesda a biographer and critic, who are also there. But she makes friends with David Fox, who is working on restoring the old gardens. Here’s a hilarious moment when they’re discussing ‘genre’ writing (Ellis is being picked on since she’s writing a ‘historical’ novel), which I think everyone who is against literary snobbishness will enjoy:

Dick Scully?” Nat asks, taking a sip of his black coffee. “Is he the one who encouraged you to write a gothic romance?”
“I’m not-“I begin, not sure what to be more hurt by-the disparaging way he’s referred to my mentor or his calling my novel a romance.
“Isn’t everything a form of some sort?” David Fox puts in. I give him a small smile, sure that he’s trying to defend me, but wishing he’d leave it. It’s foolhardy, really, considering he’s the only nonwriter at the table. …”The thriller, the gothic romance, the novel of manners,” David continues, “the angry-young-man bildungsroman? Isn’t that your genre, Nathaniel?”
A deathly silence falls over the table that only Zalman, humming to himself as he butters his toast, seems oblivious of. Has David really just called Nat Loomis a genre writer? Although I know he’s only trying to speak up for me, I’m afraid he’s gone too far.


The scene continues, with David totally calling Nat out and then Ellis mentions the Hardy Boys and Nat breaks his teacup he’s so angry. :D It’s a ton of fun!

But right, I was talking about the book, not about the ridiculousness of the literary establishment. If you’re in the mood for a gothic book, well-written if not exactly earth-shattering, and definitely entertaining, Ghost Orchid is a great choice. I don’t feel a sudden desperate desire to read everything Goodman has ever written (i.e., she isn’t Sarah Waters), but whenever I’m in the mood for a certain ‘style’ fiction, you can bet I’ll turn to her. I definitely would put this at the same level as The Thirteenth Tale, in fact I’d say it’s a stronger book (it doesn’t have that ‘debut’ feel). So I’m very grateful to have had such a marvelous beginning to one of the best challenges! :)

18 Comments leave one →
  1. September 4, 2009 10:52 am

    So glad to hear you enjoyed this! One of the things I like about Goodman is the way writing/literature and the academic milieu shows up; that plus the gothic storylines make her books ones that I always read as they appear.

  2. September 4, 2009 11:02 am

    It sounds like a book I would love. I love it when it goes back to the 1800’s – I find that period fascinating.

  3. September 4, 2009 11:26 am

    I like books that switch back and forth in time. Thanks for the review!

  4. September 4, 2009 11:58 am

    What is it about child ghosts (angry or otherwise) that makes them so much creepier than all other ghosts? I sure don’t know, but it’s definitely true!

    This one sounds like it was lots of fun, and definitely a great way to kick of RIP IV!

  5. September 4, 2009 12:05 pm

    That sounds interesting. Here is my R.I.P. IV

  6. September 4, 2009 1:46 pm

    You’ll be glad to know that all of her books have that same tone. I’ve read all of them except her most recent, and I have that one on my shelf.

  7. September 4, 2009 1:49 pm

    lol, I love the bit of shared :D

    And sigh, sadly nobody BUT Sarah Waters is Sarah Waters. I can’t exactly complain of a shortage of good books, but I still think the world needs more writers like her.

  8. September 4, 2009 6:19 pm

    I quite enjoyed The Lake of Dead Languages, but I haven’t read anything by her since. Maybe I’ll have to pick this one up. I don’t think I would have seen this one if it weren’t for your review, so thanks Eva!

  9. September 4, 2009 7:06 pm

    My experience with Carol Goodman is kind of mixed. There are a couple that I enjoyed and then at least one that I really didn’t like all that much. This is one that I haven’t read yet, but I don’t think my library has it yet. I will try it eventually.

  10. September 4, 2009 7:17 pm

    I’m glad you enjoyed Ghost Orchids. I t has been on my list for a while now.

  11. September 5, 2009 9:28 am

    Dammit! My library claims to have but, but doesn’t seem to have it – I was trying to cheer myself up by convincing myself that it wasn’t really that good anyway. Sour grapes apparently. I’m glad you enjoyed it! Sounds like I will have to mess up my budget and buy it. :P

  12. September 5, 2009 10:31 am

    Ha! This one sounds like a lot of fun. I looooove the genre discussion.

  13. justicejenniferreads permalink
    September 5, 2009 7:07 pm

    That’s awesome that you started the challenge off with a book you enjoyed. I hope that you continue on reading great and enjoyable books for the remainder of the challenge.

  14. September 6, 2009 12:20 am

    I haven’t heard of Goodman but she definitely seems like an author I need to check out!

  15. September 6, 2009 4:25 pm

    I really enjoy Carol Goodman’s books. I’ve read a few, not this one though, and I just find that it’s so easy to get into her books. You want to know what’s happening. Glad to hear your first Goodman book was a good one!

  16. September 7, 2009 7:24 am

    Melanie, I agree completely! :)

    Vivienne, this is late 1800s, but definitley fun!

    Rhapsody, aren’t they neat?

    Steph, I think it’s because we think of children as so innocent, so when they’re being evil, it’s extra-disturbing! lol

    Bluestocking, thanks!

    Softdrink, I’ve also read her debut, The Lake of Dead Languages, and I’m sure I’ll read the rest at some point. :) I know that I won a novel by her in a giveway, but I can’t find it, and it’s driving me crazy!

    Nymeth, I knew you’d love the genre discussion! :D On the other hand, if every author was like Sarah Waters, how would we ever manage to read 10% of what we wanted to?!

    Heather, I enjoyed that one too, so I think you’ll like this. :)

    Marg, this is only my second book of hers, so I don’t have too much to compare. But I don’t think she’d ever become a FAVOURITE author, you know?

    Diane, definitely keep it on the TBR list!

    Jenny, awww-I’m sorry. Maybe your librarian can find it for you?

    Andi, isn’t it great?

    Jennifer, thanks!

    Kristen, she’s a bunch fo fun for sure!

    Iliana, she does write very readable books. :D This was actually my second Goodman-I read her debut a couple of years ago.

  17. September 8, 2009 8:29 pm

    I’m glad your first book for the R.I.P. challenge was a fun read for you. Not every book has to be the second coming, and I’m glad there are good, fun reads out there that one can enjoy without having to go add a ton of that authors books to the tbr pile! ;)


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