I am notorious for judging a book by its cover. I am also notorious for trying to read the book jacket as little as possible so that I don’t spoil the plot. I try to get just enough of a peek at it that I can tell if it sounds interesting, but not enough to know too much of the plot (thank you publishers for pretty much spelling out entire novels in the jacket).
This practice has often resulted in taking a book out of the library, reading a couple of pages and then realizing that it is part of a series and is NOT the first installment. Sigh. Off to the library I go to return the book that I will most likely check out again after I read the preceding books in the series. And, that’s the easy part. The more difficult task is often trying to figure out what the series order is and so falling down the Google rabbit hole to obtain that information is a regular past time of mine. It becomes even more complicated if the books have different titles in the U.S. than they do in the author’s country of origin. THAT is particularly frustrating when the country of origin’s native language is ENGLISH as well.
All of that is to say that I saw a pretty, pretty book cover, checked the book out of the library, started to read it and discovered it was the third book in the series. After struggling to figure out what the first book was, I checked out “The Girl in the Castle” at my local library which is only available on Amazon under its other title “The Irish Girl.” Thus the title in the picture above and in the Amazon link below.
This is a excruciatingly long explanation that has nothing to do with this book. Or does it? This book. It is amazing at the beginning, terrible and kind of embarrassing in the middle, picks up towards the end and then smacks the reader in the face with a quick succession of plot twists. It is long and parts of it were, indeed, excruciating.
The story centers around the Deverill family who are a wealthy Anglo-Irish (a drinking game that requires a sip every time “Anglo-Irish” appears in the book would have anyone under the table by page 20) family living in County Cork in Ireland. The main focus is the youngest daughter, Kitty, who is pretty much either ignored or tortured by every member of her family except for her grandparents and her father. Considering herself to be Irish and relating more to the village children than her aristocratic family, Kitty forges close relationships with a kitchen maid, Bridie and the local vet’s son, Jack.
Following these characters from 1910-1925, through the first world war, the Troubles of Northern Ireland and their aftermath, “The Girl in the Castle” deals with heart-break, longing, marriages of convenience, adultery, poverty, alcoholism, patriotism and violence. A little “Brideshead Revisited” here. A little “Downtown Abbey” there.
A spiritual element is also woven into the framework of the story as both Kitty and her Grandmother see spirits. Castle Deverill, the home of Kitty’s grandparents, houses the tortured souls of all of the Deverill male descendants who are held captive by a curse. When the land that the castle was built on was taken from the Irish people by the English, a curse was placed upon the Deverill descendants. Only when a Deverill marries an O’Leary will the curse be broken and the trapped souls of the patriarchy will be released from the castle.
The first section of the novel deals more with the aforementioned dead patriarchy that only Kitty and her grandmother can see. This illustrates her bond with her grandmother and is a welcome respite from her parents and siblings who either ignore or belittle her. Similarly, Kitty’s friendships with Jack and Bridie as well as the developing romance between Kitty and Jack also make for a great read. However, it begins to break down in the middle part of the novel. All of the characters seem to hit one note repeatedly and the plot appears to unravel in a very predictable way. The story just becomes stagnate.
Towards the end, the novel begins to pick up a bit which only serves to make the plot twists in the last couple of pages super irritating. I mentioned that the plot appears to unravel in a very predictable way? So predictable. Would bet the farm on it predictable. So much so that when the exact opposite happens, I found it to be kind of insulting. The abruptness of it after the painfully long set up was a “Ha-ha! Fooled you!” moment that I did not appreciate. It was unreliable narrator meets bad magician. “Look over here! Ha, it’s over there!” is not something that I appreciate in my reading. I don’t have a problem with a slow build that goes another way, but this was definitely a bait and switch scenario.
The thing is, I really enjoyed the first part of the book and the last, up until the bogus switcheroo. While I found myself slogging through the middle of the book and definitely not wanting to continue with the series, by the end I got back into it. Now, that stupid ending has me wanting to read the next book in the series. I guess joke is on me. It was irritating but titillating enough to spur me on to read the next. Mission accomplished, Ms. Montefiore, mission accomplished.
Have any of you read these books? Should I forge on or just throw in the towel?
Check out Cannonball Read 11. Lots of reviews from lots of good people and all for a good cause.