2019 Reading Challenge

2019 Reading Challenge
Jill Elizabeth has read 0 books toward her goal of 200 books.

Book Review: The Garden of Blue Roses by Michael Barsa

This was a wild, weird read – in a good way but also in a confusing one… I met the author via GoodReads after a comment revealed that we had a mutual admiration for the indomitable Shirley Jackson. That led to him mentioning his own book – which is definitely in the SJ vein. Like Ms. Jackson, Barsa blurs the lines between reality, perception, and imagination – and he does this with his own flair, which I enjoyed. There were times I felt a bit lost though – the story travels through perspectives and time, and I occasionally felt like I needed a signpost to help me stay on top of things…

The pacing was also a little uneven for my taste – I would be utterly enthralled for dozens of pages, then feel like I was plodding through a handful until it picked back up. This was unsettling and left me feeling a bit off-kilter – although in hindsight, that may have been the point. This is a tale that is decidedly unsettling and off-kilter, after all, and the format may have been designed to reinforce those feelings. If so, it did a damn good job – I was a little creeped out (and then eventually a LOT creeped out) through much of the book.

I really enjoy psychological thrillers where you are unsure about everyone’s motivations and where the truth is to be found amidst the lies. Barsa delivered that in spades, and it more than made up for the unevenness of pacing even if it was not intentional. Still, I felt a little oddly uncertain at the end, like things didn’t tidy up quite as I’d have liked. I can’t pinpoint exactly where or why that feeling arose, but it did. The pat snarky attitude of the protagonist felt a little too pat and snarky in the final paragraphs. He went from being more than a bit to the left of center throughout the book, to acting/thinking like Kaiser Soze – it felt like a rather seismic change, and left me wondering if the entire story was a construction or if he simply underwent that magnitude of change because of everything that happened. I don’t mind an uncertain ending – particularly when, as here, it confirms that unsettling off-kilter feeling that existed throughout – it just wasn’t what I was expecting. And that, right there, sums up this book for me: not what I was expecting, in an original, disturbing fashion. Brava Mr. Barsa – Ms. Jackson would be proud!

My review copy was provided by Edelweiss.

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