This post was originally published at Novelicious.com and is now at WritingTipsOasis.com. WritingTipsOasis.com acquired Novelicious.com in June 2022.
Reviewed by Kay Brooks
Having left women’s college, Tarble, Ruby Rousseau is tormented by the secrets of her past that caused her to flee her student life without graduating. Ruby has no intention of ever returning to the place where her heart was broken and her sanity pushed to the brink. However, when a suitcase belonging to a former classmate, Beth, who has mysteriously disappeared, is delivered to her address, Ruby is forced to revisit the past. A copy of the book that tempted Ruby into madness lies in the suitcase and she is powerless to resist the call of Virginia Woolf. Called back into the world of female writers who died by their own hands, she must resist their beckoning to join them and stay focused on searching for the truth. Where is Beth and how is her history intertwined with Ruby’s own?
Ruby was a true academic until she began a fated affair with her charming, married professor. Truly believing herself to be at the centre of his world, Ruby is left devastated and confused when he breaks her heart. Retreating into her highly intelligent, paranoid mind, she finds herself struggling to keep control. She is openly flawed and this is not a fairy-tale romance by any means. It is an unusual mystery and Ruby Rousseau is the troubled, reluctant detective. The twists are dark and somewhat disturbing, making for compulsive reading.The storyline takes a while to pick up speed, unfolding slowly and dropping clues for the reader like sporadic pieces of bread. Once the plot progresses and Ruby has returned to Tarble, the plot becomes paced and emotional. I found myself feeling deeply sorry for Ruby, wanting retribution against those who had wronged her.
Ruby’s past is revealed through flashbacks, including appearances from deceased female authors, Virginia Woolf, Charlotte Perkins and Sylvia Plath, who she not only studies but also begin to feel an affinity with. Hansen’s referral to these female authors of the past highlight her own eloquent style. The flashbacks allow the reader to see how level-headed and practical Ruby was before she was taken advantage of by her calculating professor, Mark Suter.
As other characters are introduced, the plot becomes increasingly complicated and some of the events and revelations are difficult to follow. The twists also become increasingly surreal, but don’t quite cross over into being unbelievable.
An atmospheric, modern gothic tale.