I received this book for free from the Author in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.Mary Rose by Geoffrey Girard
Published by Adaptive Books Genres: Adult, Paranormal
The nitty-gritty: A stylish and atmospheric tale, part ghost story, part psychological thriller, that sneaks up on you slowly.
The creepy mirror was full-size and seemed unnaturally enormous hanging on the wall that way and reflecting only darkness. Framed in antique scrollwork, the glass within was pitch-black, and there was no image beyond the impression of hundreds of dark clouds clumped together in a bleak, lifeless night sky.
Girard’s version of Mary Rose is based on a 1920 play written J.M. Barrie (the author of the beloved book Peter Pan), and before I read this book, I had never heard of the play before. According to Mr. Girard’s informative Afterword, Hitchcock was obsessed with making Mary Rose into a movie, but after various setbacks, it never happened. (The Afterword itself is a well-researched piece that not only talks about the ill-fated movie, but delves into the seedy side of Hitchcock himself, and the themes that dominate his films. I highly recommend you don’t skip it!) With these interesting tidbits of information, I was very curious to read this book, and I’m happy to say I enjoyed it immensely. Mary Rose has a Gothic creepiness that makes it a perfect read for this time of year, full of beautifully written but unsettling imagery. My usual daily reading time is at night in bed before I fall asleep, and I have to admit I had to put the book down more than once during these reading sessions, simply because I was too scared to continue. Mary Rose is a slow burn mystery, and it takes most of the book to reveal that mystery to the reader, but this slow pacing was perfect for the story. Girard forces the reader to linger over the darkest parts, making the reading experience one of creeping terror, even when you don’t have any idea what’s happening.
Simon Blake works for a high profile law firm in Philadelphia, but the main love of his life is girlfriend Mary Rose Morland. Simon and Mary Rose plan on getting engaged, but Simon wants to travel to England to formally ask Mary Rose’s father for permission to marry his daughter. When they arrive, Simon realizes he has his work cut out for him. Mrs. Morland gives him a chilly reception, and despite Mr. Morland’s friendly demeanor, their house is austere and unwelcoming. The family is clearly hiding something from Simon, and during one conversation, they reveal that Mary Rose went missing when she was little for thirty-three days, only to appear suddenly unharmed, in the same exact spot from where she disappeared. This strange mystery has never been solved, and Mary Rose has no memories at all of the event.
During their visit, Mary Rose begs Simon to take her to Scotland to visit “The Little Island That Likes to be Visited,” off the coast of a small village named Mhoire’s Point, the location of her long-ago disappearance. But is she finally remembering what happened to her? Or is she simply recalling the wonderful times she had there as a child? Simon is determined to get to the bottom of the mystery, despite the fact that no one wants to talk about it. As strange occurrences pile up, and Mary Rose’s behavior becomes more and more erratic, Simon delves deeper into the secret life of the island, braving rumors of devil worship and more, in order to save Mary Rose from her past.
This is the first adult book I’ve read by Geoffrey Girard (the other two I’ve read were both young adult), and it’s by far the most maturely written. He seems to be completely at ease with this writing style, with atmospheric and almost poetic descriptions conjuring a dark and rainy Scottish landscape. But don’t let the word “poetic” scare you away. He never goes over the top with his descriptions, but gives us just enough to set the tone, leaving the reader unsettled and wary of the dark.
If you’re looking for a story with an unreliable narrator, because let’s face it, those are the most fun stories! Then look no further. Mary Rose is a mystery from the get go, and it isn’t until almost the end that I finally understood why she was so strange. At first I had a hard time trying to figure out why Simon loved her so much. She’s a mess. She obviously has some mental issues stemming from her disappearance years ago, and her relationship with her parents doesn’t help the situation at all. Mary Rose tends to utter cryptic phrases that don’t make sense, her mood changes from chapter to chapter, and her desire to visit the island worries everyone in the family. I had to give Simon props for sticking with her, I’m not sure I would have!
We finally get some shocking answers at the end of the story—Simon’s sleuthing does eventually pay off—but whether or not those answers point toward something paranormal or not is for the reader to decide. Girard also gives us a fantastic twist that will make you rethink what you’ve read so far, and if you’re like me, you may look back on the first parts of the story with new eyes. The last chapter is devastatingly sad and eerie at the same time. I got goosebumps reading those last paragraphs!
So was this a ghost story? Or was Mary Rose simply traumatized by her experience as a child? It’s hard to say for sure. I think every reader will interpret it in their own way. As for me, I loved the reading experience, and I still find myself thinking about the story days later. For readers who aren’t afraid of a slower paced tale, the payoff is definitely worth the wait.
Big thanks to the author for providing a copy for review.