Wednesday, January 14, 2015


Laurel, a teenager hidden in her treehouse, witnesses the arrival of a stranger who apparently knows Laurel’s mother, Dorothy.  Dorothy stabs the man to death with a cake knife but gets away with murder with a self-defense plea.  Fast forward about 50 years, and we meet Laurel again, a successful chain-smoking actress, and Dorothy is dying.  Now is the time for Laurel to dig into the story behind the murder without precipitating her mother’s death by asking too many unpleasant questions.  As with The Distant Hours, Morton tells us more than she reveals to Laurel, and I find that aspect of both books a little disconcerting—having knowledge that the protagonist is still trying to uncover.  However, I found this book much more satisfying, because the flashbacks take place during the turbulent times of WWII, without the Gothic overtones of castles and tyrannical masters of the house and so forth.  Here, instead, we look back on Dorothy’s life, questioning her sanity, as she falls in love with Jimmy, a photographer who doesn’t live up to her standards for education and affluence.  Dorothy is no better off, though, as the caretaker and companion of a wealthy old woman, but she certainly aspires to a higher station in life, as exemplified by Vivien, who lives across the street and is married to a successful writer.  The lives of Dorothy, Jimmy, and Vivien become entangled in unpredictable but intriguing ways, with the reader having to continually reevaluate the measure of each character’s reliability, honesty, strength of character, and kindheartedness.  In other words, things are not as they seem.  I enjoyed everything about this book, except perhaps for the constant gratuitous presence of cigarettes.  I had in mind two guesses as to how things would turn out, and actually, both guesses were right, whereas I had thought they would be mutually exclusive.  The title most aptly fits Dorothy, but all of the characters harbor secrets that keep the story in motion and keep the reader absorbed as the characters morph from who we think they are to their true selves.

No comments: