Saturday, March 13, 2010

Green Darkness

Green Darkness by Anya Setonby Anya Seton

Plots are funny things. Characters rarely behave with any kind of wisdom and if they did there wouldn't be any plots, now would there? I don't know how many times I read a book or watch a movie and think "Well this is just stupid! If he/she/they just did this [fill in the blank] then everything would be fine." But that's usually the point where Andrew gently reminds me that if everyone in stories behaved in such an admirably enlightened manner I wouldn't bother to watch. Train wrecks are so much more entertaining.

That's how Green Darkness fits into my thoughts. I spent most of the 600 pages rolling my eyes at the main characters, shaking my head at how irresponsible they were but you know who had the last laugh because I followed them all the way to the end of those 600 pages.

Here's a run down of pros and cons for reading it yourself.

Pro
Celia is a fabulously wealthy and rather plain young American who has recently married an English nobleman for no discernable reason . . . oh, wait. I get it. That's why he married her. Anyway, as I was saying . . . Celia is married to an ancestral model of British nobility and gentility, Richard Marsden, and as a heroine she's nice enough. Though I do just wish she'd get a bit of starch in her and let old Richard have it. And I don't mean the checkbook.

Con
Richard Marsdon, her aristocratic and aloof spouse, isn't much of a romantic lead. In fact, as a husband for young and fragile Cecilia he really stinks. Unless of course you like your leading men as a nasty blend of self-absorbed, brooding and dangerous. Wait! That pretty much sums up the Twilight series, Wuthering Heights, Revenge of the Sith and Jane Eyre, doesn't it? Maybe there's something to that combo.

Pro
Richard and Celia are having difficulties. We don't know why because heaven knows she's presented as perfection but for some reason that's not sitting well with Mr. "It's all about me." So after some dramatic swooning suitable for any romance Celia is whisked back, back, back in time to 400 years previous when she lived as the raging beauty Celia de Brohun.

Time travel is good, isn't it?

Con
The whole thing is attributed to reincarnation (which apparently Anya Seton totally bought into) where Celia and Richard are the Main Characters Formerly Known As Stephen and Celia. No explanation as to why he gets a new name and she does not.

I suppose Seton had to have some way to get them back 400 years and the reincarnation thing works about as well as anything it does give a very Shirley McClaine-esque feel to things. In a word, flaky. Very odd, very Hollywoodish and very stereotypical with the introduction of the requisite mystical Indian doctor who is the only one able to mend the rifts of space and time for our dear heroes in peril who are stuck, comatose in the present, as they relive twenty years from their former lives in warp drive.

Pro
As a historical romance it delivers pretty well. Seton was inspired to write the book after visiting Ightam Mote in Sussex, England where rumors had circulated that a female skeleton had been found, imprisoned in one of the walls where bricks had been mortered up around the girl while she was alive. Seton went back and figured out a story to explain this mysterious circumstance and that "How does she end up stuck in the wall?" question has you turning pages over and over again.

Con
In Richard's previous life he lives as the superhuman monk Brother Stephen who just happens to be rippled with muscles, chisled in features and so oozing with virility and masculine pheromones that every female for hundreds of miles can't withstand his powers. But if Hollywood has taught us nothing, it's "don't hate me because I'm beautiful" and his looks are more of a curse than anything as he struggles to not turn poor Celia on.

Celia? Well she's his female counterpart. Blond, willowy, long flowing hair, perfectly shaped--she's got it all and dear Brother Stephen breaks out into the sweats every time she shows up. The two of them do this "No, I really REALLY want to but I can't" thing for 400 pages to the point that I found myself saying "Oh just stick her in the wall already and have done with it! Leave the poor man alone with his vows for goodness sake!"

Pro
It's the Tudors. Need I say more? Celia goes back 400 years to her previous life during the reign of Edward the VI which is always good for some drama. Catholics, Protestants, courtesans, Scots, priests, scourgings and burnings--it's all there. Nothing keeps me turning pages like a good heretic burning.

So there you have it. I never found out what was green or what was dark--that whole title thing was completely ambiguous--but it didn't matter. I still read every page and liked it well enough. In fact, I liked it enough to grab Seton's other novel Katherine for my plane ride next week which promises to also be engaging, though without as many heretic burnings. Darn.

***

Sponsored by Annette Lyon, whose new novel Band of Sisters is now in print. Annette is also working to help families of deployed servicemen in the Flat Daddy Project in connection with the release of her book. See her website for more details.

7 comments:

Chris said...

Hmm, sounds a lot like any Philippa Gregory novel but without the time travel. I don't know if that's a good thing.

Janelle said...

Your last two pros were the only ones that sounded very "pro." :)

I started a new book yesterday that I've been drawn into much against my will. The story is interesting, and I'm reading it because it's a favorite book of one of my young women at church, but the writing style is driving me batty. It's written in 1st person, but the narration sound like 3rd person, but it's written in present tense: "blah, blah, blah," she says to me, as I notice the spinach between her teeth.

(minus the spinach reference)

Reno said...

I read Green Darkness probably 30 years ago and loved, loved it. In fact I bought the book fully intending to re-read it someday (which I seldom do). I should really try it again and see if I still love, love it.

Sea Star said...

I haven't ever read this Anna Seyton book. It sounds interesting. I will have to see if the library has it. I have read several others by her. I loved Katherine. I think it was her best written. So you are in for a treat!.

Karen Olson said...

I devoured all of Anya Seton's books when I was in high school but it's been a really really long time, but I remember this book now after reading your post. I think at 17 I pretty much loved it: it was my Twilight. But I do remember loving her other books better: Katherine is quite good (about John of Gaunt's mistress-becomes-his-wife), and I loved The Winthrop Woman. Check that one out next if you like Katherine.

Reno said...

Oh, I also remember reading Devil Water (the Reader's Digest version) and really enjoying it.

Elizabeth Thomas said...

Green Darkness isn't my kind of book but I'll be reading Band of Sisters.