Sunday, May 25, 2008

Whistle for the Crows [Dorothy Eden :: 1962]

The novel's strengths: Characterizations are excellent. Despite her being on the periphery, my favorite character was Peggy Moloney (Mrs. O'Riordian's young nurse). And of course I must have a crush on one of the male characters; that would be Rory. ;) Descriptions of life in Ireland (1962) are vivid and entertaining, particularly the rural settings.

The storyline stays on track and the pacing is okay. However, the storyline is ... a bit clumsy. Despite being a multiply-published novelist, Ms. Eden failed to deliver any truly interesting "twists and turns" to the story. She focuses very strongly upon an obsession by the main character, Cathleen, and upon Cathleen's private ruminations and quirks; this puts a true damper on the build up of genuine overall suspense.

Cathleen's being among the O'Riordians would have worked better if she'd been a new neighbor, or the distracted love interest of a neighbor. The conditions of her being at Loughneath Castle are flimsy, and begin with Cathleen's London boss telling her 6 months of grieving for husband and infant daughter killed in an accident is enough. Yeah, right.

Immediately (within 24 hours) of arriving at Loughneath Castle, Cathleen involves herself in private family matters. Within 48 hours Rory is irksomely referring to her as "coming off like Miss Scotland Yard." I agree. Cathleen is likeable in other ways, but her intensive "gimlet eye" on the family wouldn't have been tolerated -- especially as she's an employee and nothing more.

Suspense slowly builds. Two accidents and a drowning occur. One of these accidents imperils Cathleen's life. She recuperates, but despite being menaced wishes to remain [I would have left]! She's nearly fired after the accident, and yet within 12 hours she's re-accepted and helping to prepare for a party.

The climax was ... not terribly climactic. Somehow we're to believe that occasional (and hasty) excursions to Dublin (100 miles away) can provide enough intensive coincidences to keep the characters absorbed in the mystery (particularly Cathleen). Peripheral characters (two in particular) who should have been written up more weren't, and nearing the climax I'd nearly forgotten who Eileen Burke was. It took some reading back to figure out how exactly C connected with D and E in the "final reveal."

I did enjoy visualizing Aunt Tilly as portrayed by Agnes Moorehead. Often I "use" actors of any era to "portray" the character in my mind's eye; Ms. Moorehead would have been perfect in the role.

Mixed emotions about this novel. It could have been better. I do recommend it, but be prepared for some exasperating "oh c'mon" moments.

Finally: I wish we'd have been treated to Rory and Cathleen sharing a passionate kiss just once.

Actors I "used" to visualize the characters:

Cathleen: Keira Knightley (age 25)
Aunt Tilly O'Riordian: Agnes Moorehead (age 60)
Liam O: Liam Neeson (age 32)
Rory O: Pierce Brosnan (age 35)
Peggy Moloney: Laura Crossley (age 16)


I've currently begun reading House on Crow's Nest Island, 1968, by Arlene Hale.

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