Thursday, January 8, 2009

From serious to fabulous

I've heard of Carol Goodman before, namely her The Lake of Dead Languages. However, I've picked up The Night Villa, also by Goodman, at my library several times before deciding to just go ahead and read it already.

Lovely cover, yes? It suits the mood of the book perfectly--Italy, the sea, history, beauty.
Here's a brief plot summary, mostly courtesy of Amazon: University of Texas classics professor Sophie Chase, after barely surviving a gunman with ties to a sinister cult, joins an expedition to Capri. A donor has funded both the exact reconstruction of a Roman villa destroyed when Mount Vesuvius buried nearby Herculaneum in A.D. 79, and a computer system that can decipher the charred scrolls being excavated from the villa's ruins. Her trip takes a different spiral when she starts seeing ghosts of her ex-boyfriend--one who fell prey to that same cult...
I was actually surprised by how much I really, really like this book. Goodman is a literary writer; her prose is gorgeous. Her settings were vivid and I often felt like I was reading a Mary Stewart novel. (It was so bizarre; the authors' styles are so different, but I kept on thinking "this book is Mary Stewart-esque; wait, no it's not, why am I thinking this?") I was worried it was going to be a super serious, "I AM A LITERARY WORK" sort of book but it's not--it's a perfect example of what a quality modern novel can be.
The different threads of the story pulled together beautifully and although I'm not a huge fan of dual story/timelines, even in small doses, it worked for this story. I found myself actually interested in and wanting to know more about the characters from 79 A.D.
Basically, Carol Goodman has a new fan and I want to read more of her work. The Chicago Tribune quote on the cover sums her style up: "light enough for a weekend on the beach but literary enough for a weekend in the Hamptons."
Rating: 9.5/10

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