Welcome witches and warlocks,

Today I will be reviewing the gothic horror novel MARY ROSE by writer Geoffrey Girard.  To best describe the story, I will turn to the press release:

“The book is a contemporary gothic ghost story complete with an unexplained disappearance, a haunted island, and a family that’s not what they seem.  At the center of the novel is protagonist Mary Rose, whose mysterious background and intriguing family dynamics complicates her otherwise idyllic relationship with her fiancé Simon.”

Some places carry an energy, be it dark or light.  Maybe it is something spiritual, perhaps it is something interdimensional, but there are areas of this world that have a seemingly undefinable atmosphere.  When we run across these places something primal in our psyche is triggered and we know that there is more going on than what we see.

This is the idea behind just one thread of the many mysteries surrounding our protagonist Mary Rose.  At the beginning we get some insight into strangeness she is feeling and it further backs up this idea that there is something supernatural at play.  Sure, she has an odd family and could just be suffering some memory loss, but her narrative sections show such bizarre lapses that it is hard not to believe she has somehow been under the influence of the whispered about The Little Island That Likes to be Visited. It is this intriguing enigma, first presented about fifty pages in, that is sure to keep the reader’s attention all the way through to the finale.

Before we get that far, though, we need to discuss the narrative style for a bit as it plays heavily into this novel.  At the outset we are often trading perspectives with Mary and her fiancé Simon which gives us a nice full picture of each.  As Simon becomes more obsessively involved in the story, his sections become the driving force of the work while Mary’s thoughts become less pronounced.  It is an interesting shift because we are offered up the idea that Mary has often had poor relationships with domineering men, and here we see her fiancé taking over the narrative.  This change, while thematic, also works to keep a good amount of mystery about Mary as we see her returning memory only through the eyes of those around her, rather than getting her exact insight.

The prose itself is gripping.  From the brief prologue to the epilogue, I enjoyed the style as it captured the essence of the events without ever over informing the reader.  Given that this falls firmly into the gothic horror genre, just enough was kept in the shadows to keep the creepiness fully intact.

Speaking of the genre, those who are fans of gothic horror might wonder what they mean when they define this as being a modern tale.  To be honest, those who love the classic gothic tales will be well serviced here as it has all the trademarks with more up to date dialogue.  This really is about the only thing from our modern society that makes its way into this novel as the few technological implements referenced are barely used and the characters are still occasionally required to read old reports printed on paper to get their information.  I was impressed that they managed to make this accessible to modern audiences while still keeping a classic flair about the piece.

One final thing of note is the essay at the end of the novel about the origins of this story and its connection to Alfred Hitchcock.  I found this to be a fascinating look into the life of the world renowned director that painted him as being just as obsessive as our protagonist Simon. It also laid out fairly clearly the basis of the source material while still showing off the many flourishes added to this version that make it distinctive from the original play.  It piqued my interest in both the private life of Mr. Hitchcock as well as seeking out Mr. Barrie’s original play for the sake of comparison.

All in all, this is a wonderful gothic horror tale that gives the readers plenty of intriguing mysteries.  The narrative is interesting as we get a clear picture of both protagonists, though we are not always seeing the same exact events through their eyes.  Fans of novels like Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier or The Prince of Earth by Mike Robinson will find themselves at home in this story.

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