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BOHEMIAN SUMMER OF LOVE!
The Poison Tree - Erin Kelly
Member Name: dawnymarie
The Poison Tree - Erin Kelly
Date: 31/08/11, updated on 14/03/12 (149 review reads)
Advantages: WELL WRITTEN PROSE
Disadvantages: I DID NOT FEEL ANY SUSPENSE
What attracted me to this bohemian thriller was the image on the cover and the intriguing title. A new genre for me to get my teeth into and a complete change from what I have been enjoying recently. The blurb and praise from reputable sources helped to make the decision. Bought the book, settled down and read it.
Can you remember your 'Summer of Love'? We all have one crazy summer where we let our hair down and enjoy all that life has to offer - without a care in the world! Even to the point of being reckless! Karen is a diligent, straight A student with a natural talent and flair with languages - during her years at University she has not put one foot out of line, though she has often wondered what it would be like and felt disappointed that she had missed out on the party scene. Out of the blue Biba - an impossibly glamorous and quirky actress - captivates Karen. The summer of 1997 will be Karen's opportunity to be a free spirit in the company of new friends - the appeal of Biba's world draws Karen in and she will experience a long, hot summer of love that will change her life forever. Years later the past begins to haunt Karen - what is she prepared to do to protect her family?
A SUMMER OF LOVE?
Having read the captivating and rather exciting prologue I was anticipating a gripping read - it enveloped me in a cloak of mystery and I was feeling the suspense. When the prose begins - in first person format which I am generally comfortable with - I meet Karen, the main protagonist. Still young and with a child she is awaiting the return of Rex - who has been in prison for the last ten years. This intrigued me and I wondered what had taken place during the summer of 1997 that led to Rex being imprisoned. The composition jumps backwards and forwards in time throughout the prose - odd times I was unaware of the time period until I was a few sentences into a paragraph and needed to re read the section, this was not a problem as it only happened occasionally.
I cannot say that I warmed to Karen or understood her character completely. I thought that her traits were believable but I didn't find her very well rounded. I did not feel like I really got to know her like I have the characters in other books that I have read. Some characters really get under you skin and you develop a real empathy with them, this never happened with karen? She appears to be a very sensible and kind hearted girl who is naive and has led a very sheltered life. She is conscientious in her studies, though apathetic about any academia as it comes naturally easy to her. She has no ambition in life - I didn't discover what her real passion was, what really drove her on in life - what did she want? At the end of the prose circumstances reveal a concept worth fighting for - until then I really struggled to see anything that Karen lived for.
Biba (a shortened version of Bathsheba) enters the prose with a welcome air of mystery and flamboyance - she is a troubled girl who has secrets. She appears temperamental, self absorbed, reckless and fickle - these traits are believable considering what she has experienced in her past. Karen is captivated by Biba's energy and zest for life - she feels more alive than she has ever known and questions her own sexuality due to her desire to be in Biba's company often. Biba fascinates Karen both physically and mentally - she is easily sucked into her world. Biba's world exists in an old, decaying mansion which is owned by her estranged father. She resides there with her strikingly similar brother Rex and other temporary lodgers. The mansion is an eclectic arrangement of clutter, mostly belonging to Biba - not the tidiest of girls! In essence the place presented an image of what a dwelling would be like if squatters lived in it. The descriptive prose allowed me to gain a good understanding of what the environment was like - dirty, smelly, messy and overcrowded. Biba was not the most endearing character and I struggled to connect with her too.
The other character that featured was Rex,. He remained two dimensional - the brother of Biba and with similar features. He and Karen develop a relationship and at times there are some lovely descriptions of tenderness and passion, though these are rare and I would have liked more. Rex is troubled by his past in the same way as Biba and feels protective towards her. I didn't warm to Rex and that is a shame as there was potential for his character to be established.
The prose has a host of supporting characters who are two dimensional and I found them to be believable. I did not feel the need for any further character development as I was more interested in the story progressing.
The plot line was a good concept and I did enjoy reading the book as the style of writing flowed nicely, however, I felt as though nothing was really happening until the last quarter of the book when things really improved and I discovered what had happened during the long, hot, summer of 1997. I cannot really say that I found the prose thrilling, sinister or dark and I was never in suspense. Though the twist at the end was a surprise that I did not guess - by the time I had reached that part of the book I had lost interest.
Themes that were included in the prose include : conflict, betrayal, hate, love and obsession. Even though the ending left no loose ends, I did not find Biba's reaction believable - it did not really make sense to me. So I cannot say that I found the ending satisfactory as I did have questions left unanswered.
SO WHAT ABOUT THAT THEN?
Even though I found the book a little slow and uneventful for the first three quarters of the prose, I did enjoy the last quarter and the pages were turning more quickly. I could not warm to Karen, Biba or Rex, their traits were not endearing. I found parts of the plot line unbelievable. The comprehension did not have me on the edge of my seat - cover quotations included 'thriller', 'gripping' and 'dark and brooding'! The book has some lovely descriptive work and I could develop as sense and image of what locations and buildings would be like. It was not always obvious what time period I was reading about until a few sentences in and I would then need to re read. The ending did not answer all my questions and was not believable.
WHAT ABOUT 'THE POISON TREE'?
All that I remember about the Poison Tree is that some of it grew in the garden.
This review is just my opinion - we are all different and what didn't float my boat may well be perceived entirely differently by someone else. The book is well written and the style of writing flows well. If it appeals to you - read it and see what you think. I am awarding 3 stars (satisfactory) as I am considering the overall book and not just the ending - the last part is a good read!
THAT'S ALL FOLKS!
Thanks for reading - also published on CIAO.
Summary: A SUMMER OF BOHEMIAN LOVE THAT WARMS UP NICELY IN THE END!