Tuesday, January 6, 2015

"The Wednesday Sisters" Sequel Story

The Wednesday Daughters by Meg Waite Clayton


Ally, Hope's mother, has died. Not long before her death, she made several visits the Lake District in England, researching a biography of Beatrix Potter. Hope, together with Anna Page and Julie are going to Ally's cottage to pack up her things and say goodbye. Soon after they get there, they find a diary written in code. This novel is about the secrets Hope's mother tried to hide, and the things that connect these three girls to both each other and the place they're visiting for the first time.

When I requested the advance reader's copy of this book, I had no idea that it was a sequel to Clayton's first novel, "The Wednesday Sisters." I was certain that this would immediately put me at a distinct disadvantage. However, since the first chapter opens by explaining the relationship between these women and their mothers, I decided to read on. While this made me feel initially out of the loop, this feeling dissipated once I was about a third into the story.

What struck me about this book was tranquility of the writing. As if, the abundance of the water of the setting lent itself to the fluidity of the text. There's also a very somber feel here, which makes a whole lot of sense, considering the reason for the trip. In addition, we soon find out that these three women aren't only mourning Hope's mother. Clayton then adds in some legends of regional ghosts, which makes the perfect backdrop for a mystery novel.

However, this isn't a mystery, or at least not in the classical sense of the genre. Yes, there are things these women end up needing to discover and figure out. The most obvious of these is Ally's diary and breaking its code to find the secrets hidden inside. Less evident is how Clayton uses this as a metaphor for both the literal journeys of these three women and the one Ally is recounting in her journal. The essence of this book also echoes this, through the parallel voyages of self-discovery that all these women experience. This could have been very trite, but Clayton avoids this by leaving all of the detection work to the current trip, and allowing Ally's entries to continue to conceal the real reason for her travels. In this, the book is very successful, and is truly character driven.

Of course, character-driven novels need their readers to empathize with the characters. This is where I felt at a disadvantage for not having read the first novel. Throughout this story, the three titular characters - Hope, Julie and Anna Page - constantly refer to each other's parents as "Aunt" and "Uncle," despite the lack of blood relationships. Although I read this explanation in the opening paragraph, I still found myself confused at times, which unfortunately broke the flow of the prose.

Additionally, of these three, Julie seemed the least three dimensional, and therefore harder to identify with. She seemed to hover in the background, and even when her own inner struggle came to the forefront, its resolution seemed less believable. With Anna Page, I certainly formed an opinion of her quickly in that I didn't for her much, and there was little to change that feeling as the story progressed. Had I been able to gain more sympathy for her, I might have felt more comfortable with how her conflict was resolved. On the other hand, Hope's carefully crafted dilemma made me sometimes want to slap her, but the emotional connection with the reader was there throughout. I'm sure that her being the narrator also helped here.

This made me wonder if Clayton didn't put too many focal points into this book. If she had concentrated more on Hope in the wake of Ally's death, and left most of the emotional baggage of the other two out, this might have been a more powerful book. This is mostly because Clayton obviously loves both Hope and Ally. The fact that Ally only appears here through her diary entries didn't detract from the richness of her character, and made her surprisingly alive. In fact, all of the inclusions of Ally's diaries where she (very uniquely) researches her Beatrix Potter are simply stunning to read. Furthermore, her descriptions of the Lake District were lovingly drawn and particularly vivid.

It is obvious that Clayton is an extremely talented writer, with a unique voice. This comes through particularly well when inspired by a character, setting or relationship. Of course, this is a "must read" for fans of "The Wednesday Sisters." However, while I believe this would have been a stronger novel if she had concentrated on only one of the girls, the writing is such that one can forgive this, at least partially. Although it does stand-alone for the most part, readers might prefer to read them in order. While I still recommend it, I have to do so with a few reservations and therefore I'm giving it three and a half stars out of five. 




"The Wednesday Daughters" by Meg Waite Clayton published by Random House Publishing Group - Ballantine, released July 16, 2013, and is available on Kindle from Amazon, on Nook from Barnes & Noble, in Adobe DRM ePUB format from Kobo, as an iBook or audiobook from iTunes, in paperback from The Book Depository or from an IndieBound store near you. I would like to thank the publishers for sending me an advanced reader copy of this novel via Netgalley.

This is a revised version of a review that appears on Dooyoo under my username TheChocolateLady and previously appeared on {the now defunct} Yahoo! Contributor Network.

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