Thursday, July 17, 2008
Book Review: More Than You Know
This is yet another of the stack of books I picked up at my favorite used bookstore a while back. I'm actually making a dent in the physical TBR pile that waits beside my bed. More Than You Know (2000) is the first novel I've read by Beth Gutcheon, although she has eight or nine others. I loved this novel, and I will try to remember to find more by this author.
The stories take place on the coast of Maine in a tiny fishing village and a nearby island. There are two stories here that span several generations but are beautifully interwoven. One story is a long-ago murder/love story and the second is the memory of one summer in the life of Hannah Gray, who looks back on her one true love and the ghosts that haunted her. During that one summer when Hannah was 16 and hounded by an cold and hateful step-mother, she becomes fascinated by the long-ago murder of Danial Haskell. By talking to the townspeople and reading old newspapers, she pieces together the story. While she uncovers this sad story, she finds a kindred spirit in the Conary Crocker. The ghost-story component of the novel actually spooked me (in a good kind of way), but I am a lightweight. The characters are well-developed and richly described, the language both lyrical and sparse, perfectly reflective of the Maine setting.
Last week I read three novels. Interestingly, each novel used the chapter-by-chapter (for the most part), alternating-stories technique. With Briar Rose, the contemporary story of the sisters was aggravating and tangential but the "real" story was excellent. With Blue Ridge, the two stories, while following the same theme, had nothing to do with each other and both were disappointing. But Gutcheon makes this technique work in this novel. The stories are both rivetting, and they are tied together in a most satisfying way. I love a novel with good closure, in which everything comes together.