Sunday, September 4, 2016

strictly literary: secrets in the snow by michaela maccoll

i think this cover is so gorgeous. and the description:

jane austen’s family is eager to marry her off. coming from a family of little means, it is the only way she can be assured of a comfortable future. jane is much more interested in writing her novels, and finds every suitor lacking in one way or another. that is, until the mysterious mr. lefroy arrives on the scene. but when her cousin is suspected in aiding the french, england’s enemy, jane is suddenly sidetracked trying to prove her cousin’s innocence, solving a murder, and ultimately facing a decision that might just cost her true love.

well, that all sounds like it's right up my alley. i so wanted to love this book, and i'm not exactly sure where things went wrong for me. so let's try talking this out. i read an uncorrected proof of secrets in the snow and there were a lot of errors to be caught. i sincerely hope that whoever proofreads the final galleys does a good job, because there were so many typos, missing words, repeated paragraphs, incorrectly identified characters that it really distracted from my reading experience. maybe other people are better about letting those kind of things go, and i get how easy it is to make a mistake. i re-read my own emails three times and then after i send it i still catch silly errors. but in this case the amount of work still needed on the manuscript detracted from the story.

and about the story, it sounds pretty juicy in the description, but it doesn't really live up to all the promised suspense. the murder mystery starts and is resolved in the last third of the novel. there is so much set up getting us to that point that the payoff isn't really worth all the effort. the parallels drawn between jane's life and her novels is at times heavy-handed, and this makes the plot of secrets in the snow suffer from predictability. and in a novel that is supposed to include some suspense this is a huge problem. i also think the stakes for the characters weren't particularly well-established.

and i think here the novel's length is part of the problem. everything happens at a breakneck pace. at one point tom lefroy complains about how quickly jane walks everywhere, the author suffers a similar problem. instead of allowing things to develop and grow we leap ahead to the next plot point without allowing any time to take things in. the novel opens with jane and cassandra visiting their elder brother and his wife. this would have been a prime opportunity to show where some of jane's wry observations of the wealthy come from, but other than jane complaining about her sister-in-law and a bizarre chat she has with one of the manservants, jane is quickly dispatched back home and we are never to see godmersham location or its characters again.

the beats that the author tries to match up with pride & prejudice and sense & sensibility also fall short. i think part of the problem is that this book is trying so hard to do something different and yet it all feels so familiar. and listen, maybe that's exactly what some people want. but for me i was hoping for a different take on austen, and instead i just got another elizabeth bennett standing in for jane austen, which is actually a characterization of austen that i don't think is entirely accurate.

in the end, this is a quick read. if you like jane austen and enjoy alternate histories of real life historical figures, this should be right up your alley. i may have wanted this novel to do more, but i will admit that what it does, it does well. and hopefully by the time it publishes all the necessary corrections will have made it into the final version.

**secrets in the snow is scheduled to publish on october 4, 2016. i receive an advance reader copy courtesy of netgalley/chronicle books in exchange for my honest review.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Comments are moderated. No spam please. Let's keep things fun and nice and respectful.