Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Past lives, past loves

I read Susanna Kearsley's Mariana a few weeks ago now, and have been inspired to give it a write-up since it deals with some of the same themes as Green Darkness. It is the story of Julia Beckett, who since seeing a 16th century farmhouse in Wiltshire at age five, knew she was destined to live in it someday. The story opens with Julia finally able to purchase the house as an adult, but once she moves in she starts to experience strange flashbacks to the plague year of 1665, when she had lived as Mariana in the same house. The reincarnation issue has some similarities and a few differences from the treatment in Green Darkness. First off, when Julia experiences her life as Mariana, she does not remember being Julia. She can not change anything about the past. In GD, while Celia is reliving her past, she is lying comatose in hospital. Julia, however, steps back into time as she goes about her daily life, and comes to herself hours later, not knowing where she has been or how much time has passed. It made the story a little more immediate for me.In both books, the point is made that a person will be surrounded by the same group of individuals as they were previously, when the unfinished issues arose. Somehow, the same personalities reentangle themselves. I found it curious that even so, they all reincarnated in the same gender and in similar familial relationships as previously. But that's a small concern.
Julia finds herself surrounded by new(old?) friends; Vivian, who works in the pub, Ian, a local farmer, and Geoffrey de Mornay, descendent of her doomed lover in 1665. (I am also seeing a theme of doomed lovers in these reincarnation stories...) All the way through, she is attracted to Geoffrey, but it is fairly obvious early on that he is a red herring, and the real love interest lies elsewhere. For plotting purposes, this is wonderful stuff. However, in order to promote the red herring, Kearsley does not give enough spark to the relationship between Julia and the real reincarnation of 1665's Richard; at the conclusion, it seems to come out of nowhere, and simply because he identifies himself as "Richard" she swoons. That is my only quibble with this story, a romantic historical along the lines of Mary Stewart or Barbara Michaels. Otherwise, it is tightly written and atmospheric. A good first novel for Susanna Kearsley, whose follow up books have been better and better. My personal favourite: The Shadowy Horses. Ghosts, archaeology and Scotsmen. What more can one ask?

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