Title: The Drowning House by Elizabeth Black
Publisher: Nan A. Talese/Doubleday/Random House
Genre: Contemporary, Fiction
Length: 288 pages
Book Rating: B
Review Copy Obtained from Publisher Through NetGalley
A gripping suspense story about a woman who returns to Galveston, Texas after a personal tragedy and is irresistibly drawn into the insular world she’s struggled to leave.
Photographer Clare Porterfield’s once-happy marriage is coming apart, unraveling under the strain of a family tragedy. When she receives an invitation to direct an exhibition in her hometown of Galveston, Texas, she jumps at the chance to escape her grief and reconnect with the island she hasn’t seen for ten years. There Clare will have the time and space to search for answers about her troubled past and her family’s complicated relationship with the wealthy and influential Carraday family.
Soon she finds herself drawn into a century-old mystery involving Stella Carraday. Local legend has it that Stella drowned in her family’s house during the Great Hurricane of 1900, hanged by her long hair from the drawing room chandelier. Could Stella have been saved? What is the true nature of Clare’s family’s involvement? The questions grow like the wildflower vines that climb up the walls and fences of the island. And the closer Clare gets to the answers, the darker and more disturbing the truth becomes.
Steeped in the rich local history of Galveston, The Drowning House portrays two families, inextricably linked by tragedy and time.
“The Drowning House marks the emergence of an impressive new literary voice. Elizabeth Black’s suspenseful inquiry into dark family secrets is enriched by a remarkable succession of images, often minutely observed, that bring characters, setting, and story sharply into focus.” —John Berendt, author of Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil
Elizabeth Black’s debut release, The Drowning House, is an intricately plotted and intriguing story set in Galveston. This beautifully written story explores the mystery surrounding Stella Carraday’s purported death during the hurricane that devastated Galveston in 1900 and a long held family secret that irrevocably links the Porterfield and Carraday families.
The Drowning House languidly follows Clare Porterfield’s return to Galveston and the revelations she uncovers during her stay on the island. With her already shaky marriage on the verge of collapse following a heartbreaking loss, she eagerly accepts a job offer to select photographs for an upcoming exhibit. Clare’s research into Stella Carraday’s past exposes a carefully constructed and completely fabricated version of Stella’s life. Clare also finds herself revisiting her own past and she is shocked at the memories that slowly begin to surface. When a shocking truth comes to light, the consequences are unexpected and quite tragic.
There is a pervasive sense of melancholy in The Drowning House. The relationships are dysfunctional and Clare’s grief is palpable. Flashback are interspersed with current events and they reveal the ugly details of Clare’s unhappy childhood. Clare’s speculations of certain events in Stella’s life give that part of storyline an almost dreamy quality.
The Drowning House is a compelling story that is quite captivating. The characters are exquisitely developed and three dimensional. The history of Galveston is richly detailed and Elizabeth Black brings the island vividly to life.
An excellent novel that is full of secrets, lies and betrayals that fans of family sagas are sure to enjoy.