The basic theme of this book is a daughter trying to find out about her mother's death. Her mother was a writer who wrote two successful fantasy books, and some of the story is quoted in this book. As someone who seriously dislikes fantasy, I found this annoying and skimmed through these parts as quickly as possible. The rest of the book was her search over one summer to find information about her mother, and I enjoyed this part of the book. Not the greatest mystery I've ever read, but a quick read and a good way to spend some time.
I absolutely love this story! It was so well written that I have now purchased another Carol Goodman book. Characters are great, story plot is wonderful. Just a good book that I looked forward to opening each evening when I got into bed.
I enjoyed Goodman's first book, The Lake of Dead Languages, though I felt it had some weaknesses. Her sophomore effort is a better book. In this novel we have the story of Iris Greenfeder, a teacher and writer who is living in the shadow of her mother who was a successful author of two novels. A third book in the trilogy never appeared as her mother labored over a manuscript but died without ever revealing it to anyone. As she turns 40, bursts of small successes reconnect Iris to her mother and start her on a quest to solve some of the mysteries surrounding her mother's writing and strange death. Unlike her first novel, however, this one depends much less on a "thrill ride" to keep things moving forward. This novel centers much more on character and is interesting apart from the mysteries that unfold and get solved as the story progresses. I also find the interpretations and reinterpretations of various fairy-tales to be quite intriguing. Of course, the story still does have its weaknesses. It climaxes in a burst of unnecessary surprise and destruction. I get the feeling that Goodman is still unsure of herself on some level so that she has to hide her discomfort in providing "thrills" and "plot twists." Instead, simply letting her character studies grow to completion would produce a novel of true brilliance. But she's making progress towards that. I'm looking forward to seeing what she does with her next novel.
This is my least favorite of the four Goodman novels I have read. It's not terrible, but it's not very good. Goodman starts powerfully, with a mother telling a fairy tale to her daughter, and that story becomes the key to deciphering the mysteries of the mother's life twenty-five years after her death. Goodman's typical strengths show up in the rest of the book: frequent references to appropriate myths and folklore, a dynamic interplay between the past and the present, a decent showdown when the villain is revealed, a rich setting (this time, a hotel in the Catskills with elaborate gazebos throughout the grounds)...
But the story doesn't work this time. The pace is slow, as the mystery isn't really fleshed out for the first hundred pages or so, and then Iris can't seem to be bothered with moving the plot forward as she goes about her day job, so aside from a few tense scenes, the book consists largely of the reader waiting for something to happen. The protagonist, while she draws sympathy in her search for her mother, is rather pathetic. She lacks confidence when she makes choices as a teacher and a girlfriend and a hotel manager and an author, but when she embarks on an affair with one of her employees, she shows absolutely no real remorse for either her romantic partner of ten years or her position in the business. She also makes a number of stupid choices that serve to increase tension (seriously? She waits months to start doing a little investigation, and then instead of just asking to see a particular item that is in her boss's locked closet, she waits until the worst possible time to just break in and steal it? I kept muttering "You are stupid" at the book while I read.)
Also, while some of the names were whimsical, there wasn't a payoff (a character named PHOEbe NIX should metaphorically rise from the ashes, especially when her mother's name is VEra NIX - it's like Chekhov's mythological reference). The story uses fairy tales to enrich the particular characters, but they don't serve the story itself well, and I think Goodman is talented enough to deliver better.
Carol Goodman fans will probably forgive her for this disappointing tale, but I would hate to see this serving as someone's introduction to an otherwise talented novelist.
"The Seduction of Water" is one of those books that you think about when you're supposed to be having a conversation with a coworker. It's one of those books where you leave a party early because you'd rather be curled up on the couch book in hand. It's one if those books that when it's over, you feel like you just said good bye to your best friend who is moving across the country. It's most definitely a book that you'll want to share with others, so go out and get it now, you won't be sorry!
Carol Goodman is gifted with a smooth, hypnotic story teller's voice and she uses it to advantage in 'The Seduction of Water.'
Briefly, it's the story of Iris, unpublished want-to-be author, who ekes out a living teaching English to immigrants, prisoners, and ex-cons. The orphaned daughter of a hotel manager and a fantasy writer, her life is rather bland on the surface, until Iris decides to write an article about her mother and the missing final book in her trilogy. Then Iris's life begins to change in ways that mirror the Irish folk tales that formed the basis of her mother's stories.
Goodman's story teller's voice is true; her prose runs smoothly, her plotting is deft, and her characters - even her bit players - are intriguing.