December 2016
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The Lace Reader, Brunonia Barry

Towner Whitney, born Sophya, left her home in Salem, MA, fifteen years ago, after her twin sister committed suicide upon discovery of something in the lace.  When her Aunt Eva turns up missing, the somewhat unhinged and unreliable Towner realizes she must go back to find out what happened and ends up confronting many of her demons from the past.

That is only a brief synopsis which encapsulates very little of the book.  It’s hard to summarize without giving anything away.  I had very little idea of what would happen going into the book and I think it’s better experienced that way.  Then again, I think most books are best experienced without much plot knowledge, only enough of a hint to get whether or not I’ll like it.  So this one isn’t an exception to my rule.

For the most part, I really enjoyed The Lace Reader.  The plot had me very interested and I sped through the book.  I liked piecing together Towner’s past and the different viewpoints the author offered – a bit from her journals and Rafferty’s point of view.  I also really liked Rafferty and found him an engaging secondary character; he’s very different from Towner and it’s refreshing.  The atmosphere of Salem was enchanting and rings true with my visit there, backed up by assertions from others who have been to or lived in Salem.  It adds another level of enchantment to the book.

But then, the ending happened.  I hate to discuss spoilers in my review, so I won’t, but I will say that despite knowing that Towner was an unreliable narrator from the beginning, I just have too much trouble reconciling the rest of the book with its conclusions.  I’ve looked through the book several times since finishing and I stand by my assertion that there wasn’t enough groundwork.  Then again, I hate abrupt plot twists like this one, so perhaps this is just my personal taste, as most other people seem to love the book whole-heartedly.

So I can’t recommend this book entirely.  I found it engrossing throughout and a great read, but I was left disappointed.  I have promised a few people this book as a loan already and I will be interested to see whether they agree with me or with the masses of people who adore this book.  If you think you’d be one of the latter, you can buy this book on Amazon.

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3 comments to The Lace Reader, Brunonia Barry

  • Jen

    I think that you’re right that a lot of it comes down to how you feel about big plot twists. I agree that there wasn’t a ton of ground laid directly for the specific twist that came but, for me, the amount of groundwork around her mental state and her status as an unreliable narrator was enough. But then, I like that sort of thing, as long as it is done well. I can definitely see how that ending would throw some people for a loop, though, and not in a good way.

  • Lol I definitely have to get my hands on this. I’ve seen so many amazing reviews, but if you didn’t like it then it’s possible I won’t either!

  • Meghan

    On thinking a bit further about it, I’ve been a bit spoiled by Kazuo Ishiguro’s unreliable narrators. I think he’s the best at his craft, and he always builds up to the climax slowly, so you sort of know what’s coming but not entirely. You can definitely see, in his novels, that the narrator is holding back and/or lying. Barry just isn’t as good at that and the twist blindsided me – I think I prefer the slow and inevitable build up.