I have great stamina when it comes to reading and I hardly ever lem a book. The possibility of missing out on a great ending is too big. But sometimes, a novel drags you along and leads nowhere and it’s just not worth my time to finish it. So this is a review of a little more than the first half of the book (plus, I peeked at the ending and am glad I didn’t plough all the way through to get there – so not worth it).
THE WHITE FOREST
by Adam McOmber
Published: Touchstone, September 2012
Copy: ebook via NetGalley
My rating: 4/10
First sentence: When Nathan Ashe disappeared from the ruined streets of Southwark, I couldn’t help but think that the horror was, at least in part, my own design.
Young Jane Silverlake lives with her father in a crumbling family estate on the edge of Hampstead Heath. Jane has a secret – an unexplainable gift that allows her to see the souls of man-made objects – and this talent isolates her from the outside world. Her greatest joy is wandering the wild heath with her neighbors, Madeline and Nathan. But as the friends come of age, their idyll is shattered by the feelings both girls develop for Nathan, and by Nathan’s interest in a cult led by Ariston Day, a charismatic mystic popular with London’s elite. Day encourages his followers to explore dream manipulation with the goal of discovering a strange hidden world, a place he calls the Empyrean.
A year later, Nathan has vanished, and the famed Inspector Vidocq arrives in London to untangle the events that led up to Nathan’s disappearance. As a sinister truth emerges, Jane realizes she must discover the origins of her talent, and use it to find Nathan herself, before it’s too late.
Once more I am reminded that a beautiful cover is just not enough. Even good writing isn’t enough. Adam McOmber’s style captivated me and for the first 50 pages or so, I was drawn into this strange world of Jane Silverlake, the girl who hears and feels the souls of inanimate objects surrounding her. What drives this story is that you want to know what exactly this gift is, who Jane really is, and – of course – what happened to Nathan Ashe. But you can only string your readers along for so long.
When, after more than half of the book, there still was no movement in the plot, I threw the towel. There was one hint that made me suspect Jane’s identity and a peek to the ending told me I was right. This was not the plot twist I was hoping for while reading the first 170 pages. With so much build-up, there really has to be a big bang waiting for a reader at the end to make it all worthwhile.
As the characters go, they were interesting enough. Jane – an introvert, an outsider, almost completely isolated from society – paled in comparison to her two friends, Maddy and Nathan. Maddy, obviously jealous and visibly not as loyal to Jane as she likes to pretend, was probably the most interesting character in the entire book. She actually does things. But even when the girls take matters into their own hands and investigate Nathan’s disappearance, the author gets lost in memories of the past. Just as the plot inches forward a tiny bit, Jane remembers some really boring episode from the past – either where Nathan is curious and wants to experiment with her gift and/or when Maddy is jealous because of that and talks down to Jane. This structure is repeated over and over – until Nathan’s diary is found. Now, what normal person would read a few pages and then put it aside? Jane, of course. If you’re looking for your best friend and potential lover, wouldn’t you plough through that diary to gather as much information as possible? Apparently not. Jane puts it aside often and only reads a few pages at a time. Which makes for an even slower plot.
I am sorry to say I didn’t finish this novel because the writing was really well done. There is atmosphere hidden in these pages and the characters have potential. It just wasn’t realised very well. I read the last pages to find out the one thing that interested me – what the fuck is Jane’s gift all about? – and was disappointed there as well. The answer to this question is, to say it in simple terms, lame. Maybe this book is better suited for more patient readers, and I might be tempted to try another novel by this author (like I said, good writing there), but this was not my kind of book.
THE GOOD: Atmospheric writing, a mystery that sucks you in quickly. Tension between the leading ladies.
THE BAD: Gets boring after a while, very repetitive, drags you along without any real pay-off.
THE VERDICT: I wouldn’t recommend it. Read the first few pages on Amazon and if you love it, think whether you want exactly the same for 300 pages and don’t mind any lack of plot. If the answer is yes, go for it.
RATING: 4/10 Not that good