Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Review: Mariana by Susanna Kearsley

Mariana by Susanna Kearsley
Originally released in 1994, Mariana by Susanna Kearsley has been reprinted and released quite a few times, including this year's release of the digital edition. Mariana is a time travel romance that takes the reader on a back and forth journey between contemporary times and the 17th Century. The story takes place in Britain on a quaint, bucolic, small village steeped in history and atmosphere.
All day within the dreamy house,
The doors upon their hinges creak'd;
The blue fly sung in the pane; the house
Behind the mouldering wainscot shriek'd,
Or from the crevice peer'd about
Old faces glimmer'd thro' the doors,
Old footsteps trod the upper floors,
Old voices called her from without.
     ---Alfred, Lord Tennyson, "Mariana"
There's much to love about this story and I do believe that it stands the test of time. Kearsley hooks the reader on the story from the beginning by having a child recognize a house she has never seen, in a town she has never visited. In this tale of time travel, she beautifully weaves in Julia Beckett's contemporary story with Mariana Farr's life as it was lived in the 17th Century, reincarnation and time travel -- the movement by a person's soul between two different time periods. This movement is almost seamless and frankly the simple way in which it is done lends a certain plausibility to the story by the end. I actually loved this aspect of the story.

The historical details used to build Mariana's story during the 17th Century are excellent: the plague that hit London, small bits about the King's coronation and politics, religious beliefs and attitudes toward women, children, nobility, and peasantry, plus details about daily life. All of these factors fit the historical times and are captured by Kearsley, setting a distinct atmosphere between Mariana and Julia as they live their lives in the house called Greywethers in Exbury, Wiltshire. When time traveling, I particularly like the fact that Julia cannot change the past through her knowledge of the present or contemporary influences, instead she becomes the woman that was Mariana -- not Julia in Mariana's body. Yet, when returning to the present, she retains knowledge and memories from her expeditions to the past. For some reason, this really made sense to me.

The romance happening in the 17th Century between Mariana and her impossible love, the angst and the beauty of it, accompanied by the brutal realities of those times are well rendered by Kearsley. The fact that Mariana's story is told in spurts, or in a stop and go manner, while Julia lives her contemporary life and deals with what is happening to her, doesn't affect Mariana's story in the least. Her romance is a full, complete story, if a sad one in the end. But is it sad? After all, this is a reincarnation story too... and Julia has the opportunity of righting wrongs in the present.

The secondary characters, Julia's brother Tom, Vivien, Grey de Mornay and Iain Sumner all become an intricate part of the story and Julia's life. Some of the characters, her brother Tom in particular, truly become three-dimensional and just as absorbing as does Julia. And, just as important to the overall story are the secondary characters from the past: Mariana's uncle Jabez Howard, friend Rachel, aunt Caroline and Richard.

When it comes to the overall story, Julia becomes so entranced by the past that her decisions become muddied, fuzzy and confused. But truthfully this story is all about Mariana, because what happened in her life affects Julia's decisions about her present life and her future. Both lives are so tightly woven together that in the end, there is only one happy ending for both women.

Leslie reviewed this book back in September. That review is the reason I picked up this book last week -- thanks Leslie! In her review she called this a "non-traditional romance," and to my way of thinking she hit the nail on the head with that phrase, the unusual ending alone makes it so. That ending will surprise and shock most readers. For this reason alone I strongly recommend not to peek ahead at the end-- it will spoil the whole effect of the story.  Mariana is so intriguing and absorbing that I could not put it down until the very end. It is a great read!

Mariana is my first read by Kearsley, but it won't be my last. I already have The Winter Sea (a book I've seen around countless times) in my possession and will read it next.

Category: Historical Romance-Time Travel/Sci-Fi
Series: None
Publisher/Release Date: Sourcebooks/April 1, 2012
Grade: A-

Visit Susanna Kearsley here.


  1. Since I'm planning on reading I didn't read review, but I have to say I love the name of the book ;) LOL...

    1. Oh good! You're going to read this book... I couldn't help thinking of you throughout the whole story, lol! Great title, right?

      PS: I didn't give away anything about the story that you won't find on the blurb, or any spoilers, BUT since you didn't read the review just one warning -- do NOT peek at the end ahead of time. :D

  2. Hi!
    I've read two books by this author and I like her style a lot. I have this one to read and Every Secret Thing.
    I've read Sophia's Secret, which is the title used by the UK publishers for Winter Sea. It's very good, but I preferred The Shadowy Horses, great story in my opinion.
    Hope you can keep up with this author. :)

    1. Sonia, The Winter Sea looks really good, and I've been eyeing The Shadowy Horses. So maybe I will choose to read that one after. :) I will take it one book at a time... I do hope to keep up, I really loved this book. :D

  3. I soooo need to read this author. I keep saying that, but it's true. Everyone raves about her writing, she's getting consistently great reviews... and I don't know, something stops me ^_^;

    I think this is going to be my challenge for next year. To read a book by Ms Kearsley.

    Once again, glad you enjoyed the book :)

    1. I'm really glad this book came out in digital format, it made it easier for me to pick up a book by this author. I'd seen her other books around, but for some reason this one just struck a cord with me after I read Leslie's review. Maybe the time travel trope?

      I really liked Kearsley's style and will most definitely read more by her now that the ice has been broken. A personal challenge sounds like the thing for you. :)

  4. I can't help but think of OUR Mariana every time I see this book, too. I might have to read it just because of that.. but the fact that both you and Leslie recommend it pretty much seals the deal, anyway.

    I have an idea!!! Let's do a read along together for The Winter Sea!!!!! YES???? I will organize it if you guys want.. January or February? We may as well do it in the winter, right? [Northern Hemisphere, anyway].

    1. Christine, I say you have a great idea there about The WInter Sea! I'm really wanting to read that book ASAP... it's calling to me, but if you are going to organize a read along, I will wait! I still recommend Mariana -- it's a great read!

    2. Yes, yes! I think we could get a nice group of readers together for a January book club/read along. I think it would be a great way to start the year. I'll get going on spreading the word over the next couple of weeks to give people the heads up, us time to pressure them, everyone time to buy/borrow the book, etc..

    3. LOL! You're so good at this! Yes... !


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