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Book Club: Arcadia Falls by Carol Goodman
I have never read Carol Goodman before so I can’t compare this to her other works, but here are my initial thoughts.
I would agree that the characters are unsympathetic. I think that may be due to poor character development.
I think I can see what she was trying to do with the daughter’s attitude and behavior-I read it as a reaction to her father’s unexpected death and her mother’s autocratic decision to move-but it was superficial.
In fact, I think secondary plots were substituted for character development. For example the supposed romance between the teacher and the sheriff, here was an opportunity to give Meg real depth but it is passed by and replaced with an unconvincing love affair.
The setting had great potential but I don’t think it was used to advantage. For me there was a distinct lack of the atmosphere and general eeriness I expect from a gothic novel. It is not enough to tell me the place is isolated and perhaps haunted. For me the setting is another character and it needs the same attention and development that characters do. I want to feel a sense of unease.

About Lily’s diary, from my reading I thought that Fleur had seen Lily hide the diary and had taken it immediately because she believed Lily was her mother and she wanted to read it in order to get closer to her. She then kept it and it was found by Shelley after Fleur’s death. Though I’m not entirely sure of this point because it isn’t really made plain and Fleur could have replaced it and told Shelley where it was at some point in the past. Shelley then returned it to its hiding place. Either way Shelley seems to have told Isabel where to find it when she was scheming for Isabel to expose Ivy.

As for the time line, it is tricky but it could be done, after all Meg reads the diary in between teaching and other obligations, as a student Isabel could have devoted all her time to the reading it and writing a paper.

Why did Ivy want the diary so badly? She may have simply been interested because she was obsessed with Vera and knew the diary would contain information that was intended for her. I agree that it is vague and weak motivation but I don’t think anything stronger is offered anywhere.

I think Shelly’s motive for killing Isabel was that Isabel figured out that Shelley was using her to get at Ivy and threatened to expose Shelley to Ivy. Shelley is insane, so while her motivation is weak it is logical to her disordered mind, kill Isabel and remove the threat.

By the time Shelley is threatening Sally on the ridge she has worked out that Meg knows everything. She is using Sally as leverage to control Meg. I assumed it was her intention to kill both girls and Meg at this point. But again, it isn’t clearly stated.
Overall, while this story had a number of gothic elements (setting, insanity, ambiguous hero) I don’t think any of them are developed enough to warrant the book being labeled as gothic.

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RE: Book Club: Arcadia Falls by Carol Goodman - by random capitals - 09-30-2010, 05:32 PM

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