Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Solsbury Hill by Susan M. Wyler

Solsbury Hill by Susan M. Wyler
Copyright 2014
Riverhead - Fiction with paranormal elements
Source: Knopf for review

I'm going to try to keep this review as free of spoilers as possible, but I think it's almost impossible to describe without spoiling it a little. So, if you're concerned that my review might tell you a bit too much, please skip down to the recommendation.

Brief synopsis:

Solsbury Hill is about a woman in her 20s named Eleanor.  Her mother was killed in an automobile accident and her father died a few years later but she's worked hard and has a successful business designing sweaters. Eleanor's boyfriend has been her best friend all of her life and they have gradually become lovers. Her parents were British but moved to the United States, her mother's sister Alice the heir to an estate in Yorkshire that has been entailed to the eldest daughter of the family for generations. 

After a bit of set-up, Eleanor gets a call summoning her to Solsbury Hill: Aunt Alice is mortally ill and wants to see her niece before she dies. A family curse, ghosts and an unexpected inheritance await her, along with a half-Spanish, half-Scottish man whose name translates to "Heathcliff". As Eleanor roams the moors, getting in touch with her introspective inner Brit, she has time to ponder the cheating boyfriend back home.  Will Eleanor fall sway to the family curse and end up with the wrong man or will she break the pattern and choose well?  

My thoughts:

I was in the mood for a Gothic read when I picked up Solsbury Hill, a book that is meant to be based on Wuthering Heights.  I don't actually like Wuthering Heights but there are elements of the book that I love, chiefly the atmospheric setting. It was the promise of atmosphere that intrigued me about the book's description.  Unfortunately, in spite of a good start, the book was a mess. I liked the set-up, was intrigued about what lay in store for Eleanor and wondered how she would deal with the situation with her boyfriend. But, ultimately I was disappointed.

What began as a book with minimalist writing became choppy and disjointed, sometimes so confusing that I didn't even know what an entire sentence meant, with elements that feel as if they were overworked and far too convenient. The farther I got into the book, the more frustrated I became -- so frustrated, in fact, that it has driven me back to the "50 page" rule: "If you're not loving it by 50 pages, stop reading." I did continue but in the end I gave the book 2 stars and closed it feeling fussy and used. I think the author has promise but in this case the writer's presence was overwhelming and Solsbury Hill simply didn't work for me.

Not recommended - It's extremely rare for me to give a book the harsh "not recommended" rating but I felt like Solsbury Hill was a good idea gone wrong. Far too many of the elements either are nonsensical, silly or too convenient, the writing clearly an attempt at minimalism that comes off as confusing, choppy and frustrating. Even the most prominent ghost can't seem to spit out a coherent sentence. 

I wrote a longer review with more spoilers here: My Goodreads review of Solsbury Hill. Harsh as my reviews and rating appear, I honestly believe that with a little work the author has promise. However, she definitely needs to work on writing with clarity and not overworking a plot.

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  1. Too bad! Sounds like it had such promise.
    I found Wuthering Heights to be comical and I am not sure that is how I should have felt while reading it.

    1. Yeah, I liked the idea but the execution left something to be desired. Funny, I just thought Wuthering Heights was dreary. What you feel is valid, regardless of what everyone else thinks, in my humble opinion. I thought the movie "Twister" was the most ridiculous thing I've ever seen (probably because I'm an Oklahoman -- fortunately, I saw it in a theater in OK and everyone else was laughing). I've never been able to wrap my head around the idea that Wuthering Heights is in some way "romantic". Not to me it isn't. LOL


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