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Saturday, October 06, 2007

The Lace Reader

Barry, Brunonia. The Lace Reader. I'm so glad to have been sent this ARC/uncorrected manuscript. Barry's first paragraph establishes the tone and introduces her prose style:

"When the call comes in, I am dreaming of water. Not the warm blues and greens of these California beach towns, but the dark New England Atlantic of my youth. In my dream, I am swimming to the moon. Like all dreams, it seems logical. The idea that there is no pathway between sea and moon never occurs."

The call is from Towner Whitney's brother who tells her that Eva, her great-aunt, is missing. Towner must go home to Salem, Massachusetts, which she fled 17 years earlier and to which she has never returned.

Chapter 3 (the chapters are short and each is prefaced with a quote from The Lace Reader's Guide) begins:

"My name is Towner Whitney. No, that's not exactly true. My real first name is Sophya. Never believe me. I lie all the time.

I am a crazy woman, ...That last part is true."

I love the characters in this novel, most of whom create themselves with their actions and dialogue in the most believable way. How easy to fall headlong into this family of eccentrics that can read lace and minds; how easy to believe the impossible in the atmosphere of Salem and the surrounding islands. Mind you, the atmosphere of Salem is that of the modern Salem, a town that thrives on the tourist industry based on its historic past. Where there were no witches during the famous trials, but where witches are alive and well, enterprising and entrepreneurial in the present.

Witches, mind readers, clairvoyants become as acceptable and believable as your next door neighbors, but there is also the all-to-ordinary difficulties of grief and memory, of meanness and abuse. What to believe? Who to believe? What happened to Eva and to Lyndley?

Barry's prose is simple, well-paced, and visual. From the opening paragraph through the conclusion, I found myself captivated and...well, at home, in this strange and bewitching novel.
Hoping for much more from Brunonia Barry!

Fiction. Supernatural/psychological mystery. 2006. 353 pages.


  1. This sounds like a beautiful books and like something that I'd really enjoy. I love those books that make you feel "at home" and comfortable as you read's just such a shame when they end...

  2. This sounds like the sort of book I really enjoy, mysterious and yet strangely liked to the reality of everyday life with all its problems.

  3. I told myself I was not going to borrow anymore library books--just write down titles to read later, but that first paragraph you quoted has grabbed me! I have never heard of this author or book before, it sounds good!

  4. Wonderful review Jenclair. Makes me want to go look for this book now! I'm adding it to my list :)

  5. Chris - Some authors can just pull you into an environment and make you want to stay there. Especially during the first half, I didn't want the book to end, but during the last half, I wanted to see how the story was going to resolved!

    BooksPlease - Yes, the book has its mysterious elements and almost magical moments, but is linked to reality as well.

    danielle - The Lace Reader is Barry's first novel, but with such great characters and such skillful pacing, I hope it is the first of many.

    iliana - I think you will like this one! A psychological mystery, it reads very quickly...I couldn't put it down.

  6. This sounds like a great mystery. I especially like reading a book about a place I've visited.

  7. This one sounds wonderful. Thanks for drawing it to my attention. Like Framed, I love to read about places I've been, and having visited Salem on a gloomy, rain-soaked, October day, I think that this book will bring it back for me nicely!

  8. That sounds like a fabulous book for October. Thanks for yet another wonderful review.

  9. I like the opening - it brings to mind the image of a lake beneath a full moon when the moon is so low that it really looks like it touches the water and you could swim to it while following a moonbeam.


  10. jenclair - there's a nice little surprise for you over at the mouse! eek!

  11. Framed - It is certainly a place I'd love to visit! Yes, since you've actually been there, it would have an additional draw.

    Kate S. - I'm a bit jealous of you and Framed for having been to Salem in person. The setting isn't rainy and gloomy, however. A lot takes place in summer.

    Bookfool - A most enjoyable read. Of course, October hardly seems like October here in the South, does it? Louisiana and Mississippi have had such warm weather for such a long time!

    cj - The opening is good, isn't it? I recognize the image you've created. :)

    kimy - Awww. You are so sweet. Thanks, kimy. You may have already seen it at Lazy Gal Tonya's blog, but check out this mouse as a department store "mannequin" on the Champs d'Elysees.

  12. To find out more about the real tunnels in Salem Brunonia Barry talks about read Salem Secret Underground:The History of the Tunnels in the City and then take the cool Salem walking tour about them. Learn how 144 people hid behind the creation of a park to build a series of tunnels in Salem utilizing the nation’s first National Guard to build them so a superior court justice, a Secretary of the Navy, and a bunch of Senators could avoid paying Jefferson’s custom duties. Engineered by the son of America’s first millionaire.