I'm going to cut to the chase here:
I didn't like this book at all. I found it boring, long winded, and a trifle
self-important. However, there was something about the writing that made me plug on
through to the end and not give up somewhere around page 100. The writing was undeniably
beautiful, and the author has a way of capturing different points of view very well. I
just couldn't get myself
immersed in the storyóin other words, I didn't care very
much about the characters or what happened to them.
Part of the problem
was that I couldn't figure out who McGregor wanted me to care about the most, and the
sheer volume of main characters didn't help me decide. There's Anna Russell, gifted
artist and single mother, and her daughter, Rachel, who suffers from Aspergerís Syndrome.
Or thereís Anna's mother, Grace, who struggles with seeing her daughter fall into the
same emotional traps that she had as a young woman. And David Mortimer, the man Anna
left in England ten years ago, not knowing she carried his child. Last but not least,
there's James Garrett, a slimy art dealer and Anna's current boyfriend. There are also
several other characters playing seemingly important roles, but you rarely see them
outside of a few paragraphs.
Another factor that made me less-than-love
this book was the plotóor rather, plots, because there are several going on at once.
McGregor weaves the
different storylines together fairly deftly and cohesively, but
for this reader, it was just too much.
When Anna gets into a serious car
accident and is left in a coma, Grace contacts David Mortimer, with whom Anna hasnít had
any contact in a decade. David comes to Boston, trying to cope with Annaís accident,
Annaís departure ten years earlier, and finally meeting his daughteróas well as accepting
her disability. David soon discovers a plot by James Garrett to capitalize on Annaís
condition, and a battle of wills and mistrust begins. Does James truly care for Anna, or
does he just care about her artwork?
For me, the sub-plot that broke the
camelís back was McGregorís many references to an obscure botanistís travels to China in
the 19th century. David is a botanist, and he studied the manís work at Oxford. Heís
often found solace in his predecessorís writings, especially after Annaís sudden and
unexplained decision to leave England.
While itís possible to weave these
numerous plots and characters into a solid story, it sometimes makes for a very
McGregorís writing itself, though, is beautiful and
seamless. She successfully captures the lush beauty of the Emerald Necklace section of
greater Boston, the breathtaking seaside of Maine, and even the elegant ruggedness of
rural 1800s China. Her characters are nuanced and endearing when they should be, and her
villains as crooked as they come. All in all it was a beautiful novel, well-written, but
way too complicated for this readerís tastes.