As I mentioned in my Indie Bookstore Day Success! post a few months ago, our IBD trio received a number of recommendations from a wonderfully enthusiastic young woman who was determined to make our visit to Brick & Mortar Books in Redmond a standout amongst a day a featuring 21 bookstores. Among these recs was Into the Drowning Deep, which was briefly described to us as “mermaids, but it’s a horror novel.”
I’ve read a couple things by Seanan McGuire/Mira Grant in the past—Every Heart a Doorway, Sparrow Hill Road—and as a result was a bit on the fence about reading another book by her. I would never argue with anyone who says Seanan McGuire/Mira Grant is a good author, but her writing style is not one with which I’ve been particularly taken previously. (Same goes for China Miéville, an author whom Colleen loves, while I do not.) I really love horrific fantasy books, though, and I also love it when authors come up with a scientific explanation for popular fantasy creatures actually existing in the real world. And so, while looking for a fun read to distract me from how miserably ill I was while attempting to backpack through the Swiss Alps, I looked at Into the Drowning Deep sitting on the Sci-Fi/Fantasy – To Read shelf of my Kindle and went, ……… FINE.
I’d been meaning to read The Dry for a decent amount of time, ever since the striking cover design caught my eye at the Magnolia Bookstore during Independent Bookstore Day last year. The premise sounded great—a detective reluctantly returning to his rural Australian hometown, where unresolved tensions from 20 years before still simmer and a recent family murder-suicide has badly rattled townspeople already suffering from the worst drought in a century. Of course, many many books with equally great premises are also on my TBR list—but in the midst of my mystery/thriller spree earlier this year, I finally pulled up The Dry on my Kindle and dove in.
Anne Brontë, or as she is often treated in Victorian lit, the Lesser Brontë, wrote just two novels during her life, prior to dying of tuberculosis at 29 years of age. (Just eight months after her brother Branwell and just five months after her sister Emily. 1848-1849 was not a great time for Charlotte Brontë.) However, to shrug at Anne’s limited number of publications is much like referring to Emily Brontë as a “one hit wonder” – a designation I actually witnessed in a poorly considered Goodreads article last year. (Pretty sure you can’t be called a one hit wonder if the reason you only had one hit is because you DIED shortly afterward.) Speaking as a 28-year-old, if I had already written two books as emotional, insightful, humorous, and satisfying as Agnes Grey and The Tenant of Wildfell Hall by this time in my life, I think I’d call it one hell of a win and then die, not happily, but with a certain amount of resigned acceptance knowing that my work would live on for hundreds of years beyond me.
Anne Brontë’s relative obscurity compared to her two older sisters is something which frustrates and baffles me whenever I read her writing. Of course, much of this obscurity is due to Charlotte preventing the re-publication of The Tenant of Wildfell Hall following Anne’s death, a course of action which remains unexplained. But even with that in mind, I am still baffled at her status as a “second tier” Victorian novelist. I find her novels easy reading in comparison to many of her contemporaries’ tomes (I say as a dedicated reader of Victorian literature), full of wry observations, elegant social commentary, engaging characters, and laugh-out-loud situations. Their continued obscurity, all while much more ponderous and plodding novels continue to hog the lime light, is a horrible state of affairs. (And yes, much love to Wilkie Collins and Charles Dickens, but there’s something to be said for a novel which doesn’t make you wait 100 pages for the plot to show up.)