Tuesday, August 12, 2014

The Quick by Lauren Owen

My first reaction to Lauren Owen's The Quick, a gothic suspense novel, was pure enjoyment—the evocative writing casts you into the pace of another time, when a young gentleman poet might frugally make his way in Victorian London, subsisting on the meager earnings of his dwindling estate. It really drew me in, and I stayed up far too late to finish reading the darn thing.

But when I finally reached the end, I realized I didn’t like the story. Or rather—I liked the story of two neglected children growing up in the wild gardens of an overgrown English manor. And then I was rather charmed by the story of the isolated young poet who never dared to dream that his flat-mate would defy social and familial expectations and love him back. And then, I was crushed when, quite suddenly, the plot veered through a random murder and into a horror story of vampire politics and wasted lives. And finally, I felt let down by the end, which I will resist telling you. I guess, as a reader, I prefer an elegant melding of genres rather than a serial visitation, and if a childhood is included, it should prove to have a great deal to do with the overall plot, not just a coincidence of settings.

The reviews of this book are glowing, with cover quotes by wonderful authors like Tana French and Kate Atkinson, and it has over a thousand reviews on Amazon averaging four stars. (Interestingly, it also has over a thousand reviews on Goodreads, averaging out to 3.4—do people who review on Goodreads have different standards than those who review on Amazon?)

Anyway, my negative reaction puts me in a minority, as it did in the case of Jonathan Strange and Mr.Norrell, another overly long book with paranormal elements set in 1800’s London, which also struck me as being poorly edited rather than cunningly crafted. Meaning—if you’re drawn to Victorian tales of gothic suspense, definitely give The Quick a try. Chances are, you’ll like it better than I did!

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