"Grange House" (Picador USA, 375 pages, $24) is the story of Maisie Thomas, who, at 17, longs for something -- anything -- to happen in her life.
Readers are left longing for the same.
Although Sarah Blake's first novel initially enwraps the reader, it gradually fizzles as it becomes difficult to separate what is real within the story from what is imagined.
The setting is the late 1800s in a mansion-turned-hotel in coastal Maine. Blake skillfully re-creates the era in what feels like a cross between "Wuthering Heights" and modern-day Emily Bronte. The story is told through Maisie, who is, as usual, spending the summer with her family at Grange House. She is led on a mad hunt for clues about the history of the estate, which in turn reveal a lot about herself.
Maisie's adventure begins when she finds a hidden grave in the woods behind Grange House and is heightened by the discovery of a 20-year-old diary. As details are revealed, the story becomes more complicated, until the reader is left wondering what is actually happening, what is surreal and what is implied.
Blake writes: "A man's history is not the course of events told one after the other; it is a place he returns to. A place he circles round and round but cannot, perhaps, ever enter." And that's what this story ultimately does -- circle issues rather rich in detail without ever really getting in touch with the plot.
While much of the writing is quite beautiful, the book often leaves the reader stranded in Maisie's footsteps and urgently flipping through pages searching for clarification.
Brainerd Dispatch ©2013. All Rights Reserved.