The last week or so has seen the arrival of the summer rains that we experience yearly. It’s been nice because it’s ended the heatwave, and also because it’s given us a bit of a break from the yard work. I sit in my chair and stare outside at the rain and the birds with their puffy feathers flitting to the feeder before seeking shelter in the birch trees. There’s something really calming about the summer rain.
However, the thunderstorms are something different. Bubastis really has trouble with the heavy rains and usually runs and hides as soon as she hears the raindrops hitting the roof. Sometimes I feel like hiding with her. The memories of the basement flooding might be old, but they are still very vivid. But my lovely spouse is always there to wrap me in a blanket, bring me tea, and tell me that it’s all going to be okay. She’s always there to point out the beauty in the sound of the rain.
She’s also there to tell me that after the rain, we’ll open the screen door and feel the cool air. We’ll smell the fresh, damp earth, and the lush green brush.
A Mystery Classic
The Wall by Mary Roberts Rinehart is mystery novel that takes place during one summer in the late 1930s. The location is a village frequented by the wealthy of New York as a seasonal getaway — only usually there aren’t three murders to deal with and suspicion running wild that any one of the summer community could be the culprit.
No doubt about it, The Wall is a classic because it’s a joy to read. The pace is nearly perfect, and the author is a master at giving just enough information and placing clues and events in the right places to keep the reader turning pages. Rinehart also makes sure to put in some themes that keep the reader thinking about the content. There are comments about class distinctions and high society that are interesting, even if they aren’t fully explored or woven into higher level statements.
The mystery and the adventure of discovering the culprit definitely take the front seat and are the point of the novel. So the reader shouldn’t expect the finer points of literature, just an entertaining mystery novel.
Don’t Be Fooled by the Narrator
This novel is written by a female writer and features a main character that is female and is written in first person from her perspective. However, that doesn’t mean that this novel is female-driven. Though Marcia Lloyd finds clues and is at the centre of the mystery, she does not solve it nor does she really help it along much. In fact, more often than not she’s obfuscating clues from the police investigator that actually does solve the crime. It feels more like Lloyd is there to make excuses for the inexcusable and horrible behaviour of other characters and to gather gossip from the supporting cast.
It’s disappointing, because Lloyd is a character that has potential, but it feels like it’s squandered somewhere between mornings spent in bed recovering from fainting spells and turning pale in front of the hearth. She manages a huge house and the finances around it on her own, but that seems to be where her sense of agency both begins and ends. Frustrating, to say the least.
The Romance and How it Reads
I would be remiss if I reviewed this book and did not mention the worst aspect of it — the romance. Lloyd meets and falls in love with Allen Pell, a mysterious painter that shows up the island, lives in a trailer, and absolutely will not give out truthful information or anything more than flippant phrase after flippant phrase. He’s passive aggressive, angry, and overly familiar. He lies constantly. But somehow Lloyd decides that she loves him for really no reason at all.
It’s putrid because at every turn of the narrative the reader finds out something else that Pell has lied about, but Lloyd doggedly insists that his lies are different from everyone else’s. It smacks of a teenaged level of maturity, even though Lloyd is a year away from thirty. It doesn’t fit with the rest of the character either. It seems like Rinehart wanted to write a traditionally happy ending and, in her opinion, there had to be a romance included to accomplish that.
Reading Stacks and Themes
So, by now I have accepted that my planned reading road trip had to leave the highway a bit earlier than I intended it to. Between work and other issues that are keeping us busy, those last two books are going to have to go on the back burner. I’m hoping to finish them before the summer ends, but that may not be possible. I’m a bit disappointed but I decided that I’m going to treat this as a learning experience. No more themes that last longer than a month. No more overscheduling myself and turning a hobby that I enjoy (this book blog) into a stressor.
I’m going to take the next two weeks and review whatever book I happen to finish. I’m also going to start preparing for a theme that I’m absolutely going to finish. Halloween in August! So, I offer my apologies for the sudden stop and redirect, but I think it’s going to be all for the best. At least that’s what I’m telling myself so that I don’t end up being too hard on the blog and on myself.