Give me books, fruit, french wine and fine weather and a little music out of doors. --John Keats

Friday, September 11, 2015

"Transgressions" by Sarah Dunant

TRAIN WRECK. That's my two-word review of this book. You know, the sort of thing that is horrible and disgusting but you just can't look away from it.

I find it odd that I should have enjoyed Dunant's Birth of Venus so much (though admittedly I didn't love it) but couldn't get on board with this one. It started well enough, at least maintaining my interest if not knocking my socks off. However, when what seemed intriguing (a possible poltergeist--hey, I didn't say it was realistic) turned out to be merely sordid (a stalker--sorry, was that a spoiler?), and then I found it impossible to identify with Elizabeth's reaction to said stalker, I knew this book was not for me. The promise of the synopsis on the back cover was not being fulfilled. 

And yet I could not stop reading. 

The story starts with a young-ish woman who lives alone in a posh old London house which she used to share with her long-term boyfriend. It's been several months since she kicked him out after finally admitting to herself that things weren't working out between them. She has become a bit reclusive, throwing herself into her work as a translator of Czech novels and forgetting the world around her. When odd things start to happen in her kitchen, at first it's not clear whether Elizabeth has maybe just gone a bit crazy through loneliness, or whether something more sinister is afoot. So of course I had to keep reading until it was revealed that the latter was the case (although the possibility of the former was never really fully dispelled). I'm not sure what my excuse was beyond that point.

I couldn't help but wonder why the title wasn't Trespasses insteadThe two words can be nearly synonymous, and it seemed a better fit, given the stalker-y theme. Or maybe it would have been too obvious a choice? The author certainly didn't go for the typical cliches here. I guess I can applaud the avoidance of the expected, but that wasn't enough for me. 

Coda: this book did not completely turn me off to Sarah Dunant. I'm willing to give her another chance by reading this, if only for the subject matter. 

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