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Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Book Review: The Forgotten Book by Mechthild Gläser

I had a diary.  Most young girls do, I think.  It was red with a satin finish and a lock on the front.  I still have it…somewhere.  I should pull it back out and reintroduce myself to my younger self.  Although, it is entirely possible I wouldn’t like me very much.  Most of the teenagers that live around me are annoying and I doubt I was any different.  Although, it is ironic that I love reading YA books.  Huh.

When I got a little older, I still kept a log, but it was no longer called a diary.  I kept journals.  I was older, more mature and had put away the childish names of things.  Can’t imagine why.  The journals were no better than the diary entries, full of drama and angst and boys and he said, she said.  The world was always coming to an end in my high school years, well, my world anyway.

In college, I set aside the daily journals in favor of song writing and poetry.  Oh, I dabbled in high school.  Wanted to move to the Colorado Rockies and make music like John Denver.  His words and music were true.  It was only years later I found out what a jerk and up himself he really was.  That was a shocker.  But I digress.

Yes, the college years, found me writing short stories and poems filled with love and angst, most often depressing, but it was my creative outlet.  I was also keeping a dream journal for a semester for a creative writing class.  (That was some weird imagery.  I wonder if I still have it somewhere???)  I still had my trusty guitar and I still wrote songs, but I started dating a paid musician and I let his music speak for me.  And I found photography.

After college, I still continued to write.  I wanted to be an author, but I was never brave enough and eventually my words became silent.  I found other creative outlets from time to time, custom framing, travel photography, painting gaming miniatures, and I used to tell stories at work.  I finally settled on an insurance job and one of my responsibilities was reporting the numbers.  Well, I found that to be extremely dull.  So what I started doing was writing stories, stories about where we were with our numbers.  Sometimes they were horror stories, sometimes fairy tales and sometimes song parodies or an original poem.  But no one understood what I was doing, or why or even what I was saying at all.  Most people thought it was nonsense, but it gave me a sense of accomplishment, let me know I could still create, but that too eventually fell to the wayside as I just didn’t have enough time to keep it going on a daily or even weekly basis.  Work just got in the way of work.

That left me in a creative drought until I started this blog.  I feel as if I have come full circle.  I know it has been quite a while now since I lost wrote and while writing book reviews gives me a way to still the voices in my head, it is also a chronicle of where I’ve been as it pertains to the books I read.  And perhaps, just perhaps, that is what draws me to a book.  I have to be able to relate to it, to find the parts of me I’ve left behind.

And that is where we start.  With a word.  One word becomes hundreds recorded in a book, but not just any book, a wonderfully magical book that can make wishes come true.  But be careful what you wish for.

The Forgotten Book

My thoughts:

Emma is our heroine in the classic sense.  She is in part like Catherine Morland, hoping to find intrigue and romance, but she is also in part Elizabeth Bennett, proud, opinionated; judgmental and stubborn.  In fact, the book to me was an homage to Jane Austen and while one could find the parallels a bit too spot on, I feel as if I found an old friend in a place I least expected. 

Emma is deserving of her heroine status.  Her life is fairly tragic and full of angst.  Her parents are divorced.  Her mother lives in England with her new man who is an English professor.  While all her schoolmates are going away to exotic locales for summer break, Emma gets to go on the seminar circuit with her mother and her beau.  On the first day back to school, her father forgets to pick her up and she has to walk a couple miles in the rain to get to the school which is in a castle in the wilds of Germany.  She makes it to the school and tries to have a Mary Ty;er Moore moment on the steps upon arriving home as she calls it only to meet the current head girl and Emma’s arch-nemesis, Helena; a typical, conceited mean girl who likes to put Emma down every chance she gets.  Emma has plans though to arrest the title of head girl away from Her. 

Her father is headmaster of the school and he probably has the worst case of hypochondria I have ever heard of.  Sometimes his aliments are real, but he has more medicine in his cabinet than he has ailments to cure.  One of his favorite activities is to go through his medicine cabinet and throw away all the expired medications.  That gives his day quite a lift.

Our story would not be a Gothic tale without a love interest and Emma has it bad for a former student of the school, Frederick, who now works part time as a gardener to pay for his university courses in Cologne.  Frederick is appropriately flirty, lifting our heroine’s hopes of requited love until they take wing.

But all good stories need an antagonist and one comes by the name of Darcy de Winter whose family actually owns the castle which is only entrusted to the school.  He shows up with his faithful sidekick, I mean best bud, Toby and they demand of the headmaster lodging for a few weeks which they are provided in the deserted West Wing of the castle.

Darcy has his own agenda, as his twin sister and he were once attending the school, but his sister disappeared four years earlier under mysterious circumstances and he was taken out of school.  Did I mention the West Wing of the castle, the deserted West Wing?  Darcy is very much like his Jane Austen counterpart.  He is proud, rude, arrogant, and like Mr. Darcy, his sister falls in love with the wrong man.  His arrogance, however, is just a mask to show the world, so he can hide just how much his sister’s disappearance has torn his world apart.

Emma decides she wants to start a literary club and she wants to make the library in the West Wing their headquarters.  The library is a mess, so she and her two cohorts have to remove the debris of broken furniture and rubbish, sweep, dust, etc. to make the library a meeting place worthy of being the headquarters of Westbooks, a very properly elite club with only three members.  Being all of 16, her taste in literature is rather lacking so rather than sit and read and talk about the books they are reading, they start off taking a short cut which is to watch movies of great works of literature.  I can only imagine there is a Leonardo de Caprio movie on her play list.  The volume of the television they dragged into the library is too much for our guest, Darcy and he comes growling into the library eventually throwing them all out.  Emma vows to reclaim their library, if it is the last thing she does.

So these are our players, but in order to set the stage for a truly Gothic tale, a mystery needs to unfold and that mystery begins with a book.  Emma finds a very old book with a rendering of a faun on the cover in a secret compartment in a drawer of a dresser they try to move.  At first, the book just seems to have a lot of useless information like how many eggs were collected from the chickens on a given day, but Emma comes to understand the book is actually a chronicle of the residents who have lived in the castle.  The entries are dated, but anonymous and as Emma continues to read through the entries made over the past several hundred years, she starts to piece together a mystery over a century old and how it entwines with the very real disappearance of Darcy’s twin sister Gina from only a few years ago.

This book had it all.  It was a properly eerie Gothic tale full of mystery, magic, romance, tragedy, danger and intrigue.  It kept me guessing through to the end as I tried to figure out who done it, so to speak.  The book speaks volumes of the power of words and how they can help, but can also hurt.  And of course, once the words are out there, there is no taking them back.

Book Description (from Amazon):
Emma is used to things going her way. Her father is headmaster of her prestigious boarding school, her friends take her advice as gospel, and she's convinced that a relationship with her long-time crush is on the horizon.
As it turns out, Emma hasn't seen anything yet. When she finds an old book in an abandoned library, things really start going Emma's way: anything she writes in the book comes true.
But the power of the book is not without consequences, and Emma soon realizes that she isn't the only one who knows about it. Someone is determined to take it from her—and they'll stop at nothing to succeed.
A new boy in school—the arrogant, aloof, and irritatingly handsome Darcy de Winter—becomes Emma's unlikely ally as secrets are revealed and danger creeps ever closer.

Note: This review was made possible by the generosity of the GoodReads First Reads program.

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