Monday 19 October 2015

Clare Reviews: These Shallow Graves by Jennifer Donnelly

These Shallow GravesTitle: These Shallow Graves
Author: Jennifer Donnelly
Series: No
Pages: 496
Format: E-Arc (received via netgalley)
Rating: 3.5/5
Blurb: (from Goodreads) Jo Montfort is beautiful and rich, and soon—like all the girls in her class—she’ll graduate from finishing school and be married off to a wealthy bachelor. Which is the last thing she wants. Jo dreams of becoming a writer—a newspaper reporter like the trailblazing Nellie Bly.

Wild aspirations aside, Jo’s life seems perfect until tragedy strikes: her father is found dead. Charles Montfort shot himself while cleaning his pistol. One of New York City’s wealthiest men, he owned a newspaper and was a partner in a massive shipping firm, and Jo knows he was far too smart to clean a loaded gun. 
The more Jo hears about her father’s death, the more something feels wrong. Suicide is the only logical explanation, and of course people have started talking, but Jo’s father would never have resorted to that. And then she meets Eddie—a young, smart, infuriatingly handsome reporter at her father’s newspaper—and it becomes all too clear how much she stands to lose if she keeps searching for the truth. But now it might be too late to stop. 
The past never stays buried forever. Life is dirtier than Jo Montfort could ever have imagined, and this time the truth is the dirtiest part of all.

"She took a few more steps and peered over the cliff, into oblivion. The river seemed to rush up at her. For a second, she felt as if she might actually step off the edge. It felt terrifying - and exhilarating."
I'll admit I built my hopes up for These Shallow Graves. The combination of a beautiful cover and the promise of a great mystery combined to get me really excited to read this book. It didn't entirely live up to my expectations but that definitely does not mean I didn't enjoy reading it.

Perhaps one of the greatest problems with this book was that it's just too long. It was easy to see how this book could have been shortened and it would have gained an excitement or a momentum that unfortunately just wasn't there. It didn't help that the great mystery I thought I was getting was so easily figured out it was pretty much obvious from a quarter of the way into the book. Which, if you're counting, leaves an additional 300-400 pages of waiting for Jo to get her head in the game. Towards the end things definitely picked up again and, although it was still fairly obvious who the guilty party was, there was a definite tension over what would happen next. There was a time when I couldn't see how everything would be resolved successfully.

Characters were both an asset and a flaw in this book. Flaw because Jo, the main character, was naive and predictable and for most of the book just annoyed me. I did like her determination to live her own life, but I found she so often did really silly things on the spur of the moment and her ability to jump to conclusions and miss the obvious were extraordinary. Some side characters, such as her society friends, existed only to further the plot or provide Jo with information she didn't have. Much as I loved her new friends, I would have liked to have seen some more of her old friends. Particularly since their lives were what Jo was destined for. 

There were some interesting characters in the story, Eddie for example had a compelling back story and his friendships and motivations genuinely interested me. I did like her romance with Eddie but I wasn't overly enthusiastic about it. However the romance never became the main focus of the plot so it didn't matter too much if I didn't love it. There was a hint of love triangle but it was done in a way so that, in reality there wasn't (sorry that sounded confusing); essentially Jo is destined to marry Bram, a wealthy young man of good breeding whom she also happens to be friends with. She loves him but in the same way as she would love a cousin. And then she meets Eddie and he is just so abrupt and borderline rude that she promptly falls in love with him. I would have liked more of an elaboration on her relationship with Bram, and just more of Bram in general. I thought he was a fairly interesting character in some ways but he hardly ever appeared. 

From the cover I had expected something suspenseful and atmospheric and I didn't quite get that. I did like the setting and Jennifer Donnelly's writing style was good so there is a fair chance I will try something else by her. The historical details were excellent and the fact that women could be so easily sent to an asylum was terrifying, there was a real emphasis on the struggles of women in this book. Whether that's prostitution or poverty, or a society girl being forced into a marriage she doesn't want, and all of those elements were chilling. As far as I am aware this is a stand-alone which is a pity because I would definitely be interested in reading more of these characters. The ending wasn't my favourite kind, I usually like more complete, wrapped up endings but I did like the final decisions Jo made. I would really like a companion novel, particularly about Fay who was probably my favourite character in the book.

Overall I did enjoy These Shallow Graves. There was a promising plot and an interesting setting but I never really connected with the main character and for a mystery this long I would have preferred to be kept guessing a little longer. If you like historical novels or want to read a book that really shows how tough it was for women then definitely give this a go.

Recommended if you like this:
The Cure for Dreaming
The Cure For Dreaming by Cat Winters: This book follows a girl whose father has her hypnotised because he disapproves of her suffragist views. Like These Shallow Graves there was a real emphasis on how little control women had over their lives. 

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  1. I'm looking forward to giving this book a go. Long books don't bother me, but for some reason I just didn't expect it to be that long. Great review!

    1. I don't mind a book being long, it's more that this one felt longer than it needed to be. I read Lair of Dreams recently and it was 600 or so pages but I flew through it whereas this had bits where I kind of felt bored before it picked up the pace again. I hope you enjoy reading it! Thanks for visiting!

  2. Maybe I'll give this one a pass then. Might try something else by the author though. Thanks for the honest review!

    1. I've heard her other books are a lot better so I will probably be trying them out myself! Thanks for visiting

  3. I love Jennifer Donnelly. I have a couple of her other books to read first, but hope to get to this one eventually.

    1. If you are a fan of Jennifer Donnelly then I think you would probably like this! I've heard so many great things about her other books so I will definitely be giving them a try! Thanks for visiting