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Mariana by Susanna Kearsley (thoughts)

August 6, 2012

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

13 Comments leave one →
  1. August 6, 2012 4:16 pm

    Hi there, sorry to bother, but you really make me want to read Kearsley. What would recommend as a first read? Thanks!

    • August 7, 2012 6:33 am

      No bother at all! I’m always thrilled when people want to give my favourite authors a go. :) It looks like my other commenters have you sorted, so I’ll just echo what they said: this would be a great place to start. That being said, I really think any of her books would be good intros, so if one of them has a summary that grabs you more, go for it! And here’s my personal ranking of her novels I’ve read so far; keep in mind that I thoroughly enjoyed all of them, so it’s a question of ‘extra’ love, really.

      The Rose Garden & Shadowy Horses
      Named of the Dragon & Every Secret Thing (a thriller rather than romance, originally published under pseudonym Emma Cole, different style than others)
      Mariana & Winter Sea

      • August 7, 2012 10:30 am

        awesome, thanks! I always prefer to get reviews from real book addicts. cheers, Jen

  2. August 6, 2012 5:32 pm

    Marianna was the first Kearsley book I read and I think it was a great place to start. It’s definitely not as good as her other books but for me it was the perfect introduction to her style and made me enjoy her other books (especially The Shadowy Horses) that much more. She has written a new book, The Firebird, which should be coming out next March – I can’t wait!

    • August 7, 2012 6:34 am

      Oh yay Claire! I hope it comes out in the US in March too, altho I know I’ll probably end up waiting six months. :p

      • August 9, 2012 7:30 am

        It’s probably worth mentioning that The Firebird features Robbie from The Shadowy Horses and one of the characters from The Winter Sea! Can’t wait!

  3. August 6, 2012 6:32 pm

    This was the first (and still only) Kearsley that I’ve read, and it was indeed a great place to start. Like you, I thought the present-day storyline was much stronger than the past one, which is unusual in this kind of book. And the ending took me completely by surprise, only because I have a history of cheering for the “wrong” people (i.e., not the ones the writers intend) to get together.

    • August 6, 2012 6:33 pm

      And just to clarify–this was the ending I wanted. I just assumed Kearsley was going in a different direction, because that’s what usually happens to me!

    • August 7, 2012 6:36 am

      You know, both of her books that feature a past storyline in which the present character is more observer than actor (this one & Winter Sea), I ended up strongly preferring the present story. Which is probably why I didn’t love them quite as much as the others; I kept wanting to get back to the present. lol I agree it’s unusual tho!

      And yay for the ending both of us wanted! I would have been quite cross if it hadn’t worked out that way. ;)

  4. August 6, 2012 10:45 pm

    I am waiting to get to my first Kearsley courtesy of the author itself who has promised to send me one book!!!!

  5. August 8, 2012 7:19 am

    You know what, I need to get my hands on a copy of one of her books. I wonder if this one is still available in NetGalley? I’ll have to check. You have been raving about her for awhile now but I still haven’t tried her work! Must remedy this situation. :)

  6. September 25, 2012 7:15 pm

    It’s so nice to hear you raving about Susanna Kearsley — she’s one of my faves as well. I agree that Mariana is a beginning novel — I believe I read it many years ago now… My absolute faves are also Shadowy Horses and The Rose Garden. So, so great!! I’m excited about her newest book, can’t wait for it :)

Thank you for commenting! For a long while, my health precluded me replying to everyone. Yet I missed the conversation, so I'm now making an effort to reply again. It might take a few days though, and there will be times when I simply can't. Regardless, I always read and value what you say.

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