Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Heavy into SILENT IN THE GRAVE

Oh boy, I am so crazy into Silent in the Grave by Deanna Raybourn. It is so wonderfully gothic! And I love the voice of the main character, Lady Julia Grey. So well done and smart and lovely. The story is delightful. The whole thing is delightful. I have already ordered the next.

Okay, quick synopsis:
At the opening, Sir Edward collapses and dies at his London home, in the presence of his wife, Julia, and a roomful of dinner guests. Julia assumes it was a heart condition, and is outraged when private inquiry agent (like a Victorian P.I.) Nicholas Brisbane suggests that Sir Edward has been murdered. Later she comes to believe the enigmatic Brisbane, and together they follow a trail of clues that lead Julia to even more unpleasant truths, and a killer who waits expectantly for her arrival.

One of my fave gambits--not a spoiler
About a third of the way in our heroine, widow Lady Julia Grey bursts in on the brooding Brisbane (who is still kind of a stranger to her) and finds him ill, delerious, and not fully dressed. She feels bad about it, and afterwards here is what she thinks to herself:
And worse by far, I had taken advantage of Brisbane's indisposition and state of undress to assess his physique. It was shamefull, really. Poor Brisbane, racked by pain and half mad with absinthe, and I had actually taken the opportunity to look at his bared chest.

My only consolation was that I had not enjoyed the experience. Brisbane was not at all the sort of man I admired. He was too dark, too tall, too thickly muscled, altogether too much. I preferred a slender, epicene form, with delicately sketched muscles and golden hair. Graceful, artistocratic, like a Renaissance statue. Like Edward.
She goes on a bit, and though she notes that Brisbane had his own sort of grace that "puts one in mind of wolves and lithe jungle cats" (!!) she concludes that:
It required an entirely different aesthetic altogether to appreciate Brisbane, one that I lacked. Entirely. Even so, it was wrong of me even to look at him, especially at so fraught a time.
When I was reading this I thought, what??? The heroine isn't thunderstruck by the unexpected glimpse of the hero?!? I mean, there are shades of "thou doth protest too much" but so subtle I couldn't tell...and I really wanted to tell! I'm so spoiled by instant gratification in these sorts of circumstances, I was a bit disappointed. Not for long.

I was immensely pleased when this passage comes a few pages later. Lady Julia is searching through her old books for a specific one, and finds Persuasion, Wuthering Heights, Jane Eyre, Pride and Prejudice.

The rest were much the same, romantic stories with dark, brooding men with mysterious pasts and scornful glances. Some of them were good novels, by proper authors. Much of it was complete rubbish. I groaned as I shoved them back onto the shelf. How many summer days had I whiled away tucked in the apple tree at Bellmont Abbey with one of these books, dreaming of the day when a darkly handsome man would sweep me away to his castle on the moor? How many winter evenings had I huddled in bed, reading by candlelight until my eyes ached just to see if it all turned out happily for the beleaguered lovers?
Why on earth had my father permitted me to read such muck? It had left me with an overactive, overromantic imagination, I thought furiously. As a girl, when I had imagined my future husband, I had always thought of someone dark and masterful, lord of some crumbling estate...
In the uppermost part of her mind, she is attracted to pretty blonde men like her late husband Edward, but then when she's looking at her old books, she sort of reveals what is deeper in her psyche--dark, brooding heroes like Heathcliff...or Brisbane.

Oh, I so admired this smart and entertaining use of first person! Can an author even pull this off in third person? I suppose, but it just wouldn't be so much fun. For this reader, anyway.

Another small thing I loved about this book is the kindness of characters to one another. It made me happy to be in this world. I especially enjoyed Lady Julia's kindness to others, and her extreme conscientiousness. What reminded me of it was this bit I found when I was searching for the above. This was a few lines below:

(Julia, thinking about her late husband Edward): "Once I married him, I ceased to think of my girlhood heroes, carefully shelving the books I had once adored. I somehow felt disloyal to Edward to read them..." and later, "And I remained faithful to him, even in literature."

Faithful even in literature! I would heartily recommend this to anybody. (Unless you're looking for smutty heat.) I can't wait to read the next.

17 comments:

orannia said...

Isn't it just the greatest book? I can't remember how I stumbled on to it (via a blog...and if I could remember which one I would bamboozle them with kisses :) but I just devoured the first book and raced back to the library for the second! The third is now out and I'm (im)patiently waiting for the copies to arrived at the library.

And yes, they are definitely keeper books so I am going to buy them. I think I prefer the earlier covers though :)

Renee said...

"When I was reading this I thought, what??? The heroine isn't thunderstruck by the unexpected glimpse of the hero?!? I mean, there are shades of "thou doth protest too much" but so subtle I couldn't tell...and I really wanted to tell!"

That Deanna Raybourn: she's a sly one, I'm tellin' ya!
She totally gets across that he's built like a man-god, but in a way that doesn't make my eyes roll.

"Oh, I so admired this smart and entertaining use of first person! Can an author even pull this off in third person? I suppose, but it just wouldn't be so much fun. "

In this way she reminds me of Charlaine Harris, and how she writes Sookie. All those little asides and self-deprecating comments serve to give a better context to the action as well as let us better know the heroine.

Like orriana, I'm waiting to read the 3rd one! CJ, you're going to love the 2nd book at least as much as the first! :-)

Leslie said...

I'm in love with Raybourn's writing! I think Julia and Brisbane are certainly in my top for favorite couples.

The second book is just as good if not better. I've got the 3rd in my TBR pile and need to get to it soon.

Ana said...

ooo I am reading this one now as well and loving it!

Nalini Singh said...

I'm another fan. I actually read book 2, then went back and read 1. Book 3 is sitting on my shelf as we speak, calling my name!

I like how there are all these little witty/funny things in there, and yet they don't take away from the tension of the storyline.

Marg said...

Another Raybourn fan here! I wish I was buying books at the moment, because the third one would be jumping into my basket sooner rather than later! I certainly enjoyed the first couple of books in the series!

Terri said...

I'm tickled to find all these Deanna fans here (being one of them!). This was honestly the best book I've read in years, and completely deserving of winning the RITA award for best "Mainstream Novel with Romantic Elements" last year. I'm three chapters into Silent On the Moor (Book #3) right now, and finding it as good as the first. That Nicholas is a maddening man, to be sure!

Carolyn Jean said...

Orianna: Yes, this is so great. I think I first stumbled onto it on Brie's blog, Musings of a Bibliophile. Thanks Brie! But I think Renee below you seconded that. Earlier covers? Ooh, I must see.

Renee: That is a fabulous point about how she got Brisbane's hunkiness across. I loved when he was the fighter.

Leslie: Oh, great! I can't wait.

Ana: Oooh, good.

Nalini: So right! It's not like things happen in the book just to get the wittiness in. The wittiness is naturally there, and so perfect.

Marg: I know you love those historicals!

Terri: Now that I've read it, I'm surprised at all the fans, too. I thought I was reading an obscure book. But yes, it SO should've won an award.

orannia said...

This was honestly the best book I've read in years, and completely deserving of winning the RITA award for best 'Mainstream Novel with Romantic Elements' last year.

I didn't realise Silent in the Grave had won a RITA! That's fantastic!

And I forgot to say - I'm not a huge first person fan, but unlike other first person books, the Silent books just seem...effortless somehow. Not quite sure how to explain it :)

Enjoy CJ!

Nicola O. said...

She sounds like Scarlett trying to convince herself that she loves Ashley and not Rhett.

Terri said...

And I forgot to say - I'm not a huge first person fan, but unlike other first person books, the Silent books just seem...effortless somehow. Not quite sure how to explain it :)

Oh, I can explain it, Orannia - I've met Deanna, and she is Lady Julia, at least in her heart. She's merely channeling her inner Victorian self. LOL We were both nominated for two RITAs last year, and agreed beforehand (in a genteel, lady-like manner) that we'd split the difference and each win one, and we did!

Seriously, she's a lovely person, and Silent On The Moor is shaping up to be as good as Silent In The Grave.

(And no, I'm not her publicist, merely a lover of good books!) :-)

~ames~ said...

OOh I'm glad you liked this! I have it in my tbr pile. :P

writtenwyrdd said...

I actually read this one because someone mentioned they liked it so much on their blog. I think it was a best first line thing from nathan Bransford's blog, come to think of it. So I had to buy the book becasue of that one line.

Carolyn Jean said...

Orianna: A good first person can be so gratifying, can't it?

Nicola: Snort. yes!

Terri: It is so wonderful when an author of a lovely book like this is also so gracious and kind. I'm glad to know that!!

Ames! Use your super librarian powers to lift it out of that pile!

WW: You know what? That first line is part of what swayed me, too!

Sarai said...

K so I have this on my library request list. I'm hoping to get it soon!

samantha.1020 said...

I love a good gothic story so I'm adding this one to my TBR list. So glad to hear that you are enjoying it so much!

Brie said...

Hi CJ, I wasn't around Blog Land when you wrote up your thoughts on this book. I just stumbled across it and wanted to say how happy I am that you enjoyed it as much as I did!