#72 ~ Trauma

May 23, 2008 at 11:57 am | Posted in Books, Family, Gothic Fiction, Reading | 6 Comments
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Cover of Trauma

Trauma by Patrick McGrath

Trauma tells the story of Charlie, a divorced psychiatrist who specializes in Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Charlie has spent his life taking care of his mentally ill mother and a brother-in-law who suffered from PTSD as a result of his tours of duty in Vietnam. After his brother-in-law dies, he ends his marriage, unable to cope with his guilt. After his mother dies, Charlie finds himself emotionally orphaned and without someone in his personal life to fix. What’s a psychiatrist to do living like that?

This novel takes place in New York City during the 70s and perhaps 80s. The Twin Towers are being built and viewed from many angles throughout the novel and are almost a character themselves, symbolizing stability in a city full of disillusioned Americans struggling to deal with the aftermath of the Vietnam War. I found this to be the best, most subtle, and thought-provoking commentary on our current war. The reader is free to draw one’s own conclusions or even not notice it at all because there is no break in the narrative to make a political statement. In the end, the novel is more timeless this way. While the story itself will always have a specific time and place in history, there is no blatant political commentary targeted at a 2008 audience that will interfere with readers 100 years from now.

I have always enjoyed Patrick McGrath, the more Gothic the better. This novel isn’t his most Gothic, but he is in great form. It reads quickly and is entertaining and interesting. I prefer Asylum to this and all of his other novels, still I found the tension to be perfect. Even after mulling Charlie over for the past few days, I’m still not sure if he is a reliable narrator. To me, this is a good thing. This way I am able to look back on a novel both with trust and full of questions. Each view provides an interesting twist. Of course, the mother is always to blame which ever way you slice it, but that’s another story.

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#22 ~ The Thirteenth Tale

May 12, 2007 at 4:14 pm | Posted in Books, Gothic Fiction, Reading, Secrets and Lies | 4 Comments
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The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield

It took me a while to read this book, but that is not because it wasn’t interesting and delightful. Suffice to say that sometimes work gets in the way of life. I completely enjoyed reading a Gothic ghost story once again. I keep forgetting how much I enjoy them. There’s something about a misty, haunted moor filled with secrets and lies to keep my interest until the very end.

The narrator, an avid reader, lives above her father’s bookstore. From a very young age Margaret spent a majority of her time reading. Her ability to read expanded once she began working at the store full-time. The store is full of exotic books, but it is not the main way in which their livings are earned. Her father has a knack for finding the most difficult books. Four of those sales a year is all they need.

Her life is sheltered within this world of books until she is offered the opportunity to write the biography of one of Britian’s greatest living novelists. Vida Winter spent her life spinning tales when asked about her private life. To Margaret, she wants to come clean. Margaret’s family also has its secrets that keeps her at arms length from her mother. After some discussion with her father, she accepts the position and makes a temporary move to Ms. Winter’s estate.

The world of shadows, ghosts, and mentally unstable relatives unfolds for Margaret during sessions with the author in her library. As Margaret tries to tie together loose ends and prove to herself that Ms. Winter is not making a fool of her, the reader is, too. The rules that Ms. Winter put in place about not asking questions and not jumping ahead in the story are as tantalizingly frustrating to the reader as they are to the narrator.

The conclusion to this book is reminiscent to many other Gothic novels. Asylum by Patrick McGrath came to mind. It, by far, is my favorite book in this genre. I finished the book with satisfaction. It was nice to not feel disappointed. The fact that I wasn’t longing for more is not negative. It felt complete and that is a joy to me. Not everything has to end with Scarlett tormented on the stairs determined to get Rhett back after first rejuvenating her soul at Tara.

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