Merrimon Book Reviews

Christina, sister of Dante Gabriel Rosetti

Dante Gabriel Rosetti
Self portrait, 1847

William Morris
Self portrait, 1856

From Merrimon Book Reviews
Arcadia Falls
Arcadia Falls by Carol Goodman
by Carol Goodman

When her husband dies unexpectedly, Meg Rosenthal takes a job in Arcadia, New York at a small boarding art school to support herself and her daughter Sally.  As a specialist in fairy tales in 19th and 20th century fiction, Meg hopes to research the school's founder Vera Beech and her partner Lily Eberhardt.   When a senior student plummets to her death from Arcadia Falls, an incident with an eerie similarity to Lily's death years ago, Meg seeks to unravel the mystery behind the two deaths.  The more Meg investigates, the more dark secrets she discovers about the school's past and even secrets about her own history.  As important as the discovery of physical clues is the exploration of the playing out of individual myth and folklore patterns within the lives of her characters. 

Carol Goodman's ARCADIA FALLS combines gothic murder mystery with an exploration of the role of art, family and sacrifice.  Meg's examination of the past and present creates a multi-dimensional tale that unites generations of women.  Several variations of the changeling story play out in the lives of her characters.  The transmutations of this fairy tale create an artistic and psychological richness within the novel.  Several twists and turns, especially at the end create an intriguing mystery puzzle.  Above all, Carol Goodman captures the dark beauty of art and the difficulties of women artists who must often choose between family, economic survival and art as well as the legacies women leave their children, intentionally or not.  ARCADIA FALLS lags a bit in the middle as threads are woven together but the novel more than makes up for it as the novel progresses with layer upon layer of intricate meaning coming together by the end.  At times, the narrative voice has a very slight awkwardness that detracts from the mostly rich, magical imagery of the novel.  While this did not affect thiis reader's enjoyment of the novel or a high recommendation, a slightly more fluid flow in the character's voice would make this book even more exceptional than it is.  By the novel's end, ARCADIA FALLS captures the indescribable beauty and passion of art while posing several challenging questions.  While the mystery itself is solved, the deeper questions posed linger, making this book an excellent choice for a women's reading group discussions.   ARCADIA FALLS is a very good gothic mystery but also much more.  ARCADIA FALLS looks at myths and fairy tales in the context of art and women's lives, and by book's end, encourages readers to look at their own family stories in new ways.

Publisher: Ballantine Books (March 9, 2010)

Reviewed by Merrimon, Merrimon Book Reviews
Review Courtesy of Amazon Vine
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