“The past, Mary thought, was itself a great predator, chasing you always behind in a tireless pursuit so you ran from it, or lying ever in wait for you, ready to sink its sharp teeth in the spots where it knew you were the weakest.”
Sara Thomas has Asperger’s which means that she’s more sensitive to the world than other people. Her memory is fantastic and she has a knack for cracking codes because numbers calm her down. In between jobs, her cousin Jacqui introduces her to a novelist Alistair Scott who wants to write about a common girl in the midst of the Jacobite Revolution. He hires her to go to Paris and crack a cipher that’s been used to disguise the thoughts of a girl named Mary Dundas. What starts as a way for Allistair to obtain first hand information about that particular time period, turns into a thriller because the diary was not as it appeared at first to be about. Sara finds herself drawn more and more into the life of Mary and even into the lives of those she lives near in Paris.
I’d been looking forward to this new Susanna Kearsley book for about a year. I have some of her older books on my kindle but it’s so much more exciting to read the pretty edition. Her books are daunting at first but don’t get discouraged. I read to 50 pages and was slightly discouraged by how much was left. Before the night was through, I had read almost half and was saddened by the dwindling number of pages left to read before the story was over. I adore reading her novels.
Susanna Kearsley has a formula. Two women, separated by centuries, usually end up having something in common as one searches for clues about the other. And I have to admit, I’m not sick of it yet and I don’t think I ever will be. I love that her novels are rich in history and switch between current day and the 1700s (generally). The characters are always diverse with distinct personalities.
“Any man deserving of your notice will need nothing to impress him but that you should be yourself, and any man deserving of your love will see you as you truly are, and love you notwithstanding.”
I love reading about the Jacobite revolution because of the time I spent in Scotland. It gives me a fuller understanding of history that was never taught to me in high school. This book is different than Slains (The Winter Sea and The Firebird) because it takes place in France where the exiled King lived. I haven’t read this side of the story yet and it’s incredibly fulfilling to read another aspect of it.
I like that she chose to write a main character who has Asperger’s. I like the insight into her character and her quirks. I like that it’s not this whole huge deal that she wrote about someone with a mental issue. They’re a part of life and it should be more normalized to read about characters with different disabilities than set apart by saying this character is different-read about their struggles! It cheapens it, I think. It changes the way readers read the book instead of being more accepting of the differences, they’re sensationalizing it. But I digress, Sara is a fantastic character and provides more insight into the mind of someone with Asperger’s.
“The parking gods of Paris smiled kindly on us…” I say that! I worship the parking gods, too. I love when main characters are ridiculously relatable through their differences.
Kearsley has perfected the timing of her switch between characters and time. Whenever I stop reading about Mary Dundas, I’m hurt because I want to know and read more. But then once I’m swept up in Sara’s world, I want to continuing reading about her discovering Mary’s life, cracking the cipher, and of course, her budding romance with Luc. It’s interesting because Sara’s chapters are told in first person with her narrating while Mary’s chapters are in third person though, the switch is seamless.
The inclusion of fairy tales in Mary’s chapters was wonderful. I loved how she shaped the stories she read as a child to talk about her current situation. The stories were lovely to read and made Mary into one of my favorite characters. I now, clearly, want to read the fairy tales of Countess D’Aulnoy. Seriously, feminist fairy tales? Yes please. They’re currently in my Amazon wish list with others by Kearsley.
“Well, if he sweeps you up onto his horse the way the prince did to the peasant girl, I trust you’ll sweep yourself back down, for such encounters rarely end so well in life as they do in fairy tales, Real men are not so chivalrous.”
Bless my poor little heart. I need more of Mary & Hugh’s story STAT. Just a continuation of all the characters would be great, too. This book killed me. I will be eagerly awaiting whatever book comes next and in the meantime, I’ll catch up on her other novels.
I’m glad to say, Susanna Kearsley will stay as one of my favorite authors. Now if I could only meet her…