So begins The Monsters of Templeton, a novel of mystery, hubris, obsession, passion and revenge spanning two centuries, where the dead rise up to tell their sides of the story and the living are haunted by the sins of the past.
Part a contemporary account of a girl's search for her father, part an historical novel, and part a ghost story, this spellbinding story has at its core the revelation of how one town holds the secret of the family.
Shortlisted for the Orange Broadband Award for New Writers 2008
©2008 Lauren Groff; (P)2008 Oakhill Publishing
"A fantastically fun read, a kind of wild pastiche that is part historical novel and part mystery, with a touch of supernatural thrown in for good measure" (Booklist)
Moving further from work extended my daily commute... thank God for Audible.
I think most reviewers agree; Groff is an indisputably capable writer. The prose in this book is effortless and quite beautiful. I was even fond of the protagonist, Willie, who seems to be the primary source of scorn for other low-star reviewers. And I was intrigued by the mystical undercurrents of ghosts, monsters and other mysteries that Groff has woven into this narrative.
But, for a whole variety of reasons, Monsters of Templeton just didn’t work for me. After completing only one-third (I’ve listened to 4h out of 12h total), I’m afraid I just can’t bear the thought of another 8h so I’m reluctantly putting this book aside and moving on.
Too much time was spent framing the genealogical search through past generations – yawn. No amount of remarkable closet-skeletons can entice me to keep track of six(?) generations of characters and innumerable illegitimate (i.e. confusing) pregnancies.
This brings me to a specific criticism of this audio version. Liza Ross does a fine job with the narration, but she is expected to portray many first-person narrators. Including an Irish immigrant from the 1800’s and a Jamaican slave from the 1700’s. Those chapters were terrible and cringey. But I don’t blame Ross – this was too much to ask for any voice actor.
I’ve read other critiques of Monsters, that claim Groff struggled to give her numerous characters unique "voices". Imagine how extra difficult this is with an audio version where – literally – the same voice is used for every character. Using just one reader was, in my opinion, a wasted opportunity to really bring this story to life.
I don’t feel good writing this review – I can tell Groff is a supremely talented story-teller. I just felt this particular story wasn’t right for me.
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