by Michael Boccacino
Pub. Date: July 24, 2012
Book received from: Publisher via TLC Book Tours
Genre: Historical fiction/ Gothic fiction
Cover: Bland- it really tells little of the story or the feeling created
Characters: So-so. I never really felt like I knew the characters or their motives fully
Worth the read? Possibly- if you are absolutely craving a new gothic tale
Tagline: Every night I dreamt of the dead…
After the gruesome murder of the Darrow boys’ nanny, Charlotte Markham steps in to help keep order in the house. After experiencing many strange deaths, dreams, and visits from an ominous man in black, Charlotte has become somewhat accustomed to the darker side of things. So, when the boys and her discover a way into another world through the Darrow’s garden, she carefully considers all sides of things. Does she let the boys visit their dead mother in her enchanting world called ‘The Ending,’ or should she try to convince herself none of it is real at all? As Charlotte gets drawn deeper into the dark and seductive world, she finds that not all things are worth the price that must be paid.
I would like to say right now that I did not dislike this story. It is interesting, dark, and perfectly gothic. However, there was a lot to the story that left me not enjoying it as much as I could have, mostly based on personal preference. Firstly, it is assumed that the story is taking place in a Victorian England setting, but it is never really expressly stated as to the time and location, other than the vague town of Blackwell. Given this lack of solid time and place, it became a bit difficult for me to decide if Charlotte was acting as a governess or nanny of the time would have. At times, it seemed as though she had much more freedom to question the investigation or the nanny’s murder and questions of ghosty-things than would have been acceptable in a Victorian setting. Not that I do not love to see gender norms being challenged- it just did not fit the story for me in this case.
Secondly, the relationship between Charlotte and Mr. Darrow is frustratingly undefined. They are both widows, and are taking part in a darkly flirtatious relationship, but the tension the author tries to create just is not there. It was supposed to be some sort of game between the two that had a sinister edge, but the rules and motives are never explained enough to make my heart race enough to connect with the desire the two supposedly share. Perhaps if there had been a bit from the perspective of the Mr. then it would have been a bit more solidified and understandable. I just did not think that the added drama of such a relationship was really needed with all the other darkness of the story, especially given that Charlotte was supposed to be a likable character.
Lastly, the story was well-plotted, although delivered a bit rigidly from time to time. However, that being said, it was not particularly original. All through my reading, I was reminded of many different books, authors, and movies, among them being Rebecca, Jane Eyre, Wilkie Collins, Neil Gaiman, Pan’s Labyrinth. It is not that the similarities are necessarily a negative thing. On the one hand, it is clear that Boccacino has a firm foundation and appreciation of the genre in which he writes. However, I often find it troubling- as a personal preference- when I am reminded so much of the work of others while reading a new book.
Although it may seem as though the negatives outweigh the positives, it is not necessarily so. It is good to see that the gothic tale is still being told. Although I would have liked to see a more modern twist on the same old ideas, Boccacino does have a great understanding of the material and an imagination that deserves more room to shine. Charlotte Markham will give you chills and keep you guessing the outcome right up to the end, and the world and creatures created will pique the curiosity of the darker minds. I do think that this could make a great book-to-movie, if directed by the right person, and I would definitely go see it. I am waiting for the next novel of Boccacino’s in hopes that he is able to grow into his own a bit more, because if he lets go of some of the literal references to his influences, who knows what a world he could create.
I am offering my copy of ‘Charlotte Markham’ for one lucky reader. To be entered, simply comment below & tell me what your favorite gothic novel/movie is, with your e-mail address in the comment.
Must be at least 17-years-old and live in the US/CAN. I will pick a winner by random August 12, 2012.
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‘Charlotte Markham and the House of Darkling’ can be purchased at Amazon.com, as well as your local independent bookseller.
For more about Michael Boccacino, go to his website here.