by Elizabeth Black
Publisher: Knopf Publishing
Publication date: January 15, 2013
Purchase*: Barnes and Noble/Amazon/Book Depository
A gripping suspense story about a woman who returns to Galveston, Texas after a personal tragedy and is irresistibly drawn into the insular world she’s struggled to leave. Photographer Clare Porterfield's once-happy marriage is coming apart, unraveling under the strain of a family tragedy. When she receives an invitation to direct an exhibition in her hometown of Galveston, Texas, she jumps at the chance to escape her grief and reconnect with the island she hasn't seen for ten years. There Clare will have the time and space to search for answers about her troubled past and her family's complicated relationship with the wealthy and influential Carraday family. Soon she finds herself drawn into a century-old mystery involving Stella Carraday. Local legend has it that Stella drowned in her family's house during the Great Hurricane of 1900, hanged by her long hair from the drawing room chandelier. Could Stella have been saved? What is the true nature of Clare's family's involvement? The questions grow like the wildflower vines that climb up the walls and fences of the island. And the closer Clare gets to the answers, the darker and more disturbing the truth becomes.The Drowning House by Elizabeth Black is a stunning debut novel with its eloquently almost poetic writing style and in-depth look into the people dwelling within the small exclusive beach community of Galveston, Texas. I was quickly drawn in by the characters and Black’s lyrical descriptions.
We meet Clare Porterfield a photographer in a failed marriage that beats on long after the loss of their only child. Clare has been merely existing, slowly shutting down and moving away from the outside world and her husband Michael. When her mother contacts her about a photo exhibit for their neighbor Will Carraday she makes the decision to drive cross country from D.C. to return once again to the hometown she left after a tragic accident some ten years ago. As she researches, she begins to questions things about her childhood, stirring up old secrets that are sometimes better left buried.
Clare was a strange, damaged little bird, and as the tale unfolds Black does a wonderful job of revealing all the events that shaped the woman who stands before us. All of the characters were well developed and had voices of their own. As the secrets are revealed, we slowly gain insight into why each character kept them and the cost it had on them. This plot is very character driven and the author did a wonderful job of making them feel real, flawed and fascinating. The characters while well developed are sometimes dark, gritty and not at all endearing to the reader. Despite that statement I did enjoy the tale, after all not everyone is likeable and each character felt real.
The author unfolds the tale in such a way that you as the reader are left in the dark, until things are slowly revealed. The pace is meandering but interesting enough to keep me reading. Black vividly brought the seaside to life with her pen bring us its smells, sounds, and taste. I could see each event as it unfolded from the past, and felt the character’s emotions. This novel is not without problems, and I question a couple threads that seemed unnecessary. Overall though I am pleased that I read this and impressed by the author.
Fans of woman’s lit, and character driven novels will enjoy The Drowning House. I look forward to reading more by Elizabeth Black.
I want to thank Random House for providing this ARC in exchange for my unbiased review.
Three and half vanilla lattes out of five