Monday, 5 November 2012

Frozen - Mary Casanova

I received the galley of Frozen from NetGalley and University of Minnesota Press. I thought the book looked very interesting and wanted something halfway serious to read, considering I had something quite silly to read as well and knew I need to break it up. Something mysterious and historically sounded right up my alley.

Frozen tells the story of Sadie Rose, a teenager growing up in the early twenties in small town Minnesota. She was taken in by a wealthy family when she was found as a child by the body of her frozen mother. She has been mute ever since. She has few memories of her mother and has grown up feeling a bit like an outsider as the family, despite loving her, has still yet to adopt her over ten years later. 

At the start of the story, Sadie Rose finds some photographs in the shed one day while the family is out and realizes that they must be pictures of her mother. With the introduction of this new stimulus, Sadie finds memories returning to her and her voice beginning to work for the first time in years. But she also finds a wariness to speak and new suspicions being raised about her past.

Something I really liked about Frozen was its setting. Although the twenties as a period are quite vogue right now, it's always the flappers, bootleggers and jazz musicians that tend to get the attention. This took that same era and looked at it from another angle. Sadie has heard talk that women's right to vote may happen soon. She still worries about walking to town by herself and that it's inappropriate for her to go out on a canoe with a boy. This is a new and refreshing time period to read a book set in and I really enjoyed it. The research was clearly there and the world felt fully realized.

The plot itself is also very intriguing. You know right from the start that Sadie has a mysterious past that is obviously going to be explored as the book goes on. Why is Sadie mute? What happened to her mother? Is there something nefarious with her newfound family? 

For the first two thirds of the book, the plot surges on, drawing you through with references to prostitution, bootlegging and murder. There's obviously something shady in Sadie's past. There are also colorful characters that she encounters, from Owen the local boy to Victor the reformer to Trinity, the party girl. Each escapade ties the story closer to the ultimate mystery and keeps you reading.

When I got to about two thirds in, though, I looked at how many pages where left and began to worry that Casanova wouldn't have time to wrap up all the plots that she had gotten going. There were only so many pages and a lot more the reader needed to know. That is the only disappointment I found in this book: it wraps up too quickly and neatly. Some things that really needed to be explored more where paved over in order to give the book a neat ending. Sure, Sadie comes into her own and gains her own voice, so to speak, but it seems that she recovers from some facts too quickly and doesn't explore other mysteries that one would think she would want to know more about (a certain unexplained death comes to mind.) When the book ended, I felt there was too much that hadn't been explained satisfactorily to me. I wanted more.

So I suppose that's not the worst criticism: to have wanted more. I did enjoy the characters, especially the manic depressive Trinity who added some Zelda Fitzgerald-esque drama into the mix. I just wish more would have been explored.

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