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==Synopsis of the book:==
It is 1897 and a group of actors accept an invitation from a wealthy and influential benefactor to perform a play at his home in Whitby over Christmas. There hope is by doing this he will be so impressed he will back them to perform it all over the country. However there is a condition and that is their benefactor's daughter Alice has written the play and they have no idea because this is her first play how good it will be. Added to this she has chosen to do a dramatisation of Bram Stoker's Dracula which is a new and ground breaking book.
Caroline Fielding and her husband Joshua are two of the group that headed towards Whitby from London. Their journey is long and tiring but they are happy to arrive at what will be there home for the next 10 days despite the snow storms that show no sign of ending. Joshua will direct the play and when he first reads the script he and his fellow actors all wonder how they can bring to life this play that they feel really won't work. They fear that without a radical overhaul this play will not be well received or indeed understood by the wealthy owner and his guests.
However a stranger who is marooned by the worsening weather is interested to watch and could he hold the key and help these actors make sense of this challenging production?
==My thoughts on this novel:==
I thought this was a very well written and well thought out piece of historical fiction. This does not surprise me in the least as I have already read several from this series and always enjoyed them. Although I do not usually like stories that go back into our past I have found these easy to read and easy to relate to without talking about things I do not understand or talking in a way I cannot follow the dialogue.
For me this author Anne Perry always tells a riveting story. She has in a very successful writing career written well over 70 books. The book I am reviewing forms part of the Christmas ones as they are based round that period and currently number nine. With this book being the latest offering and was written this year.
I selected this story on two counts the first being I have enjoyed all the other six books in this series that I had tried. Secondly, I knew I need to start getting in the Christmas spirit and I hoped by reading a story that focuses on this it would do the trick.
To be honest the tittle really didn't impress me although I did wonder how the author would make a different and unique story from it. As I had read one or two stories from this series and dealt with a Christmas gathering and I hoped it would something new. The novel's summary was two very good sized paragraphs long. It certainly got me interested and was very different to what I expected. As it set the scene well and I liked the idea of this new play being rehearsed in a unusual setting in a snow covered land.
The only thing I do find a little frustrating about this series but maybe I shouldn't is the fact it is always snowing at Christmas!! As I can never remember it snowing on Christmas Day but in this series it always does. Maybe things where different in the late 1800's but it does at least give the author a great opportunity to paint a classic Christmas scene. And use her skills in describing and setting the scenes.
I found the book very easy to get into and immediately I liked the background to the story. It basically told the story from Caroline Fielding's perspective. This was ideal as while she was married to Joshua she was not an actor and not part of their inner circle so like us she was on the outside looking in. The only thing I initially struggled with was remembering which actor was which and what part they were playing in the production.
What appealed to me was the fact the actors needed to balance the massive need to improve the original script by their benefactors daughter with the need to keep this benefactor happy. So they needed to act out the scenes and show how it needed to change and improve without Alice (the writer) feeling it was no good or no longer the play she had written. I liked the way Joshua did this and especially when their mysterious guest arrived how he brought new life to this horror story.
I continued reading and while I enjoyed the way they argued changes through, I started to wonder if this was the way the story would unfold as I thought it will bore me in the end. However and this is what greatly impressed me was the unexpected twist the story took. This added new life and really got me interested and wanting to know more. My only criticism would be that it only happen two thirds of the way through the story. If it where me I would have brought it in earlier or have expending the last third of the story to fully exploit the new development.
For me this development increased the pace of the story dramatically. I found from that moment onwards the book was a real page turner and I did not want to put the book down again until I had finished it. It was just lucky for me in that respect it was a short book at just 154 pages!! This again is a feature of this series and while sometimes it is nice to have a short and quick read there was so much that could have added to this story as to me thinking the mystery and suspense could have been expanded.
However that is not to say this was not a deep well thought out story. There is certainly enough quality in the author's scene descriptions that bring them alive. I certainly feel Anne Perry has a wonderful feel for what life was like in the Victorian age and this she describes with authority making it interesting and fascinating for the reader.
The only other thing I would have liked to have got to know the characters more. As I felt the author could have shared more details about that so as to make them all memorable. For example different traits or interests, as most of the way through I could not distinguish one from another. And while this did in a sense at mystery I think this author is good enough to do this and maintain the mystery and suspense within it.
I thought making Caroline Fielding the main character was an excellent idea. She is a women with grown up children but still is young at heart. She was easy to understand and relate to and I liked the way she dealt with the challenges that presented themselves. For me she came into her own in the last third of the story and I found I admired her courage desire to resolve the mystery that surrounded her. I particularly liked way she dealt with the actors and how she felt out of her depth most of the way through it. Although I would have preferred more depth and learning more about the other key players within the story.
Another unusual feature of this story was there where no chapters within it. Yes you could argue that this was a very short book but I still like a story broken up and I like to read to the end of the chapter not the end of the book!! However because the story was clearly written it was easy to follow and I never lost exactly what was happening.
For me this was another very good well thought out Victorian Christmas story. I really like the way the author shows the differences between society then and now but shows how people's values have not really changed at all. I am sure if she writes another in this inspiring series I will be purchasing that too. When I researched this I could not find the paperback version currently available so it does make it an expensive book especially when you consider the number of pages there are within it!!
I would certainly recommend not only this book but all the stories in this excellent Victorian series.
For me what made this story was the totally unexpected twist that happened two thirds of the way through it. It was an enjoyable story that got better because of this twist. My only disappointment was that the book ended far too quickly and quite easily could have been expanded and make a more complete story involving more depth about the setting and the characters within it.
Authors website: http://www.anneperry.net/
Publisher: Kindle Edition
Price: 8.99 new at Amazon
Year of Publication: November 2011/
Thanks for reading.
This review is published under my user name on both Ciao and Dooyoo.
© CPTDANIELS December 2011.