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Friday, 20 June 2014

The Qualities Of Wood by Mary Vensel White

The Qualities Of Wood

When Vivian Gardiner joins her husband Nowell to help him clear out his late grandmother’s house, she gets a lot more than she expected: a new sister-in-law; a mysterious neighbour; a gun in the attic; and the mystery surrounding a dead girl who has been found in the woods behind the house.

Set in the American Midwest, I found this novel very atmospheric and beautifully written. As you read, you feel as though you’re almost in the house with Vivian. With her you experience her husband’s mental and emotional absence from her as he tries to finish writing his latest mystery novel, the fellow feeling she develops with Dot, her new sister-in-law, and the tension created by the presence of Lonnie, Nowell’s unpredictable and sometimes incendiary brother.

Beyond the house Vivian also explores the wood, which almost seems to have a life of its own. What draws everyone there? Nowell, Lonnie, the mysterious, yet attractive, neighbour Mr Stokes, and ultimately Vivian herself.

The wider neighbourhood is also full of intrigue. I loved Katherine and Max, who take Vivian under their wing, and the town’s obsession with its founding father William Clement and his descendants who are all about to arrive for a festival.

It is the festival, the clearing of the house and the subsequent yard sale that ultimately bring the Gardiner family secrets out into the open. The ending demonstrates what happens when family secrets are left to fester, fed by jealousy and half truths.

This is a well written novel and I enjoyed learning about the characters as the author stripped away layers of their past. There is a richness to the descriptive writing that gives it a great sense of immediacy and reality.

Overall an interesting novel focusing on family, place and the unlocking of mysteries.

Thanks very much to the publishers for a review copy of this book.

You can find out more here.

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