July 26, 2008

Vertigo by Lauren Baratz-Logsted

It seems like most everything I've been reading lately has been pretty meaty, so I picked this up hoping for a lighter read. I was mistaken in that.

The blurb on the cover suggests this is a sort of romance, and in a way it is, but it's more of a psychological thriller than anything else.

Emma is the sheltered wife of a successful novelist in Victorian England. She has a good -if passionless- marriage and a young son. She feels restless in this essentially perfect life, but accepts it. She dislikes the fact that as a woman she can have no control of her own fate and feels like she's missing something.

She makes a New Year's resolution to be a better person and asks her husband for some suggestions to get her going on this path. He's been researching prisons for a novel and suggests that she exchange letters with a prisoner, and provides her with a name and address. So she begins to write to Chance Woods, who'd been convicted of killing his wife. This correspondence takes her down paths she never would have imagined otherwise.

I always have a hard time reading books in which you know the heroine is about to make a terrible choice, and in this book that happens more than once. It's a spiral. But is it a downward spiral or an upward spiral? In the end the reader is left wondering if Emma has ruined her life or if she's saved it.

I'm tempted to give this book three or four stars because it wasn't the lighthearted quick read I'd been after when I picked it up. But if I'd picked it up under different circumstances I wouldn't feel that way. This book was meticulously crafted, well written, surprising, and thought-provoking. I'd wanted all of that except for the thought-provoking bit. So I have to admit that this book deserves five stars.

5 comments:

  1. I can recommend The Lottery by Patricia Wood as a very enjoyable read, also Ivan Doig's Whistling Season.

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  2. If you're looking for a light read, try the "Shopaholic" series by Sophie Kinsella. The first one is "Confessions of a Shopaholic."

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  3. You have me convinced to read it!

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  4. This sounds incredible! I am wondering what changes in her life have been caused by this pen pal friendship! You make this sound like a must read! I have a hard time at times when a character does something that I think is wrong for them, but what a way to pull you in! :)

    Thanks for the review. :)

    Kelly B

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