Stainless Steel Droppings is hosting the RIP Challenge again this year, and I have boldly chosen to accept this challenge. I always mean to, and I think I always end up reading the books, but never seem to get around to doing the reviews. Shame, shame!
Author: Barbara Michaels
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Copyright: ebook October 6, 2009
Number of Pages: 328 (nook edition)
Reason for Reading: I love the Barbara Michaels books. They scare me to death, creep me out thoroughly, and have romance that even I, avowed romance-hater, get all squishy inside about. (ooh–bad sentence structure, eh?)
Simon did as she asked. He had a sonorous, flexible voice and he knew he read well. He gave the dreadful story everything he had. Scarcely had the poor rabbi reached the gardens and raised his eyes toward Heaven to praise God for his escape than he was clasped in a tender embrace and he realized that “all the phases of this fatal evening were only a prearranged torture, that of HOPE. The Grand Inquisitor, with an accent of touching reproach and a look of consternation, murmured in his ear, his breath parched adn burning from long fasting: ‘What, my son! On the eve, perchance, of salvation–you wished to leave us?'”
Karen shuddered, then laughed–at herself. “I concede your point. But I’m afraid modern readers wouldn’t be affected.”
“They have become jaded–too many chain saws, too many decomposing corpses. And few comprehend that mental torture is the worst of all–the constriction of hope and of ambition.”
“But that’s what women’s writing is all about,” Karen said. “That’s the theme of Ismene’s poem. ‘They have shut me in a house of stone.’ She wasn’t talking about a physical prison.”
Karen’s academic reputation was made by a book she found in the 25 cent bin at the used bookstore, a book of poems written by a woman who named herself Ismene (rather than Antigone–significant, right?). One poem in particular spoke volumes to Karen:
“They have shut me in a house of stone…There is no victory in death–only the mute darkness…”
Now, several years later, another manuscript has turned up, also by the elusive Ismene. Karen has a couple of rivals who also want to purchase the manuscript, but she and another professor, Peggy, unite and are fortunate enough to have the winning bid and get the manuscript. Using all the available clues, they track down the likely home and family of Ismene, and begin exploring those houses of stone.
Michaels has a gift for combining mystery and ghosts and the deep dark spaces within the human psyche into a fantastically creepy story. And as I said above, she gets some romance in. I think the reason I like her romances is because the romance isn’t the main point of the story. It’s a natural consequence of the events and the growth and development of her characters. And her characters are multi-dimensional. They breathe.
I think Houses of Stone is one of my favourites because, like most women, I have my own houses of stone that attempt to imprison me. The question is whether, like Ismene and like Karen herself, I will manage to free myself.
If you haven’t read this one yet, please do–you’re in for a treat!