The two books I'm writing about today have nothing in common other than the fact that I was reading them at the same time. I had such different reactions to these books and the experience really sort of 'highlighted' my tastes.
Daphne: A Novelby Justine Picardie was the darling of the British book bloggers some time ago and I waiting for US publication, then paperback publication to finally find out why. The wait was worth it! I'm a little, okay a lot, embarrassed to say that I've never read Daphne du Maurier's work, the person this novel is based on. But to tell you the truth, that didn't really matter at all, when it came to enjoying this book. I mean, I think if I'd read Rebecca (I know the story, just haven't actually read it!) I would have gotten more out of it, but it was a very compelling story nonetheless. The story goes back and forth between three characters. Daphne herself is living a solitary life, researching the life of Branwell Bronte as her marriage is seemingly coming apart. Branwell Bronte scholar J.A. Symington is disgraced, and fielding letters from du Maurier requesting information about Bronte. The present day character is a female graduate student who is keeping her fascination with du Maurier and the link she has discovered with Symington a secret from her much older and distant husband.
Let us cut now to the other novel I was reading, The Ivy Treeby Mary Stewart. You might or might not remember my first experience with Mary Stewart. It was a good one and I expected nothing less with The Ivy Tree. Well, this is one of those times that I disagree with everyone else on Amazon who adored this book. The story sounded good; a young woman from Canada is minding her own business in England when a man comes upon her and declares her the dead ringer for his cousin, long thought to be dead. His cousin who apparently is entitled to the inheritance he is hoping for himself. Thus begins this tale of mystery and deceit. It would be an understatement to say I did not enjoy this very much. I am not a huge fan of looooong stretches of dialogue in books. This book, I felt, had the following structure. Long stretch of dialogue between young woman and one other character;loooong description of place and of the countryside; repeat. And the big twist? It wasn't hard to figure out.
So when the dialogue laden The Ivy Tree was juxtaposed with Daphne it was so easy to understand why I enjoyed Daphne so much more. Yes, there is of course dialogue, and yes, the characters go places and do things, but Daphne was a much more cerebrally driven novel. It's all about what everyone is thinking, not what they are saying. Apparently, I like that more. But for the record, I haven't given up on Mary Stewart.