Source: ARC from Netgalley
Published by: Open Road
Released: 21st October 2014
Buy it from: Barnes and Noble
I can see what Lisa Goldstein is trying to do in bringing a classic ‘English’ mystery into modern day America. But for me, it just doesn’t work.
It feels like she is writing in imitation of someone else, rather than as herself. This is odd, because The Red Magician, one of her other works that I’ve read, is a completely different kettle of fish.
In The Red Magician, Lisa Goldstein sounds much more confident, distinctive and masterful. It sounds like she’s telling a story of truth, however extraordinary it might be. In contrast, Walking the Labyrinth feels like someone making up something on the go to please someone they don’t know very well.
That’s not to say I hated every aspect of it. The flashbacks to the Allalie family in the showbusiness world of the 1920s had an enjoyable, dreamlike quality that captured the sense of sparkle and optimism of the age. And the relationship between the two Allalie sisters is pleasingly complex. I liked the way each different layer of it unfolded as the book went on.
But these weren’t enough to disguise some of the issues I had with this book. First of all – England. Or should I say “England”. Goldstein’s portrayal just wasn’t a world that I recognise at all. It seemed more like a world created on the back of an immersion in a tourist guide image of England, all grand castles and Dick van Dyke city chappies. Anyone inspired by this book to visit the UK would be in for quite a shock, I think!
Then there was the total lack of awareness about the main character, Molly. She’s an adult, apparently. Yet she appears entirely naive about the world. Possibly this innocence is meant to be endearing, but I must admit I just found it annoying. One moment she is too timid to even ask her boyfriend about his plans, and the next we are expected to believe she can march up to complete strangers and demand answers? It didn’t ring true. It felt like Molly was dancing to the plot of the story, rather than driving it.
Walking the Labyrith may work for fans of writers like Sarah Addison and Alice Hoffman, who enjoy magical realism, but it wasn’t for me I’m afraid.