Thursday, May 15, 2008

Review: Green Darkness, by Anya Seton


In my opinion, Green Darkness wasn't quite as good as Katherine. It started off slow, and didn't pick up until the time travel back to the 16th century. But Anya Seton's command of the period of which she writes is commendable.

Celia Marsdon is an American who marries a member of the English aristocracy. Richard Marsdon lives in an area of England which is quite charming to Celia and her family members- manor houses complete with medieval-period ghosts are just one of the attractions that England holds for them. When she visits one of the medieval manors one day, Celia gets the odd sensation that she's been there before. A mystic named Akananda, a friend of the family, says that he feels as though he has met Celia and her mother in a past life- bringing to mind the idea of reincarnation, which is, or course, the whole theme of the book. He believes that Celia must relieve her past in order to make sense of the life she currently leads. It soon becomes quite clear that Celia's marriage is in trouble- Richard becomes more and more withdrawn, and Celia finds herself unable to handle changes. A visit back to the mid-16th century, when Edward, Mary, and Elizabeth were monarchs, is the highlight of this book. At this period in time, the Marsdon family is still Catholic (which it would be until the 18th century), despite the fact that two of the above monarchs were Protestant. As you can imagine, this will create great tension as Anya Seton captures the struggles the Marsdon family will go through.

This is a well-written book, although it does have its flaws, such as speech patterns. Even back in 1968, I imagine that Americans wouldn't have said things like, "I feel sort of queer," "How frightfully intellectual you're getting," and "I shouldn't want to live here, give me a convenient flat [as opposed to `apartment'] in Eaton Square every time," just to name a few. It seems that, although Anya Seton lived in Connecticut for a while, she completely ignored American slang. Anyways, that's a minor point; its neither here nor there. In sum, I liked this book for its clear, straightforward prose, and likeable characters. I also recommend reading Katherine, if you haven't already.
Also reviewed by: Bell Literary Reflections

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