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The Door to the Tower by Sylvia G.L. Dannet
#1
BEWARE: SPOILER ALERTS ABOUND

Finally, I've finished this book. Not that it was long. I could have finished in one afternoon if only it had kept my interest. The premise was so preposterous that it was difficult for me to suspend disbelief long enough to finish. But because I do like to persist, I finally picked it up again and I will say that it ended better than I expected. Not to say that it made up for the book, as you will read soon, only that I really thought it would blow apart.

Our heroine, or protagonist, is Michelle. Our hero, if you can call him that though his role is so minor, is "Adelno (or Del). Our villain is Agatha, the only one with any real "character". The story begins when Michelle's mother Emily marries Agatha's father Horace. Horace has another daughter Isabel from a second woman. Del has a twin brother Elliot and a cousin Betsy. The book is copyright 1966, but I believe it takes place in the late 30s. I always like to know the background so that I can imagine the historical data.

To begin with, Michelle tells the story in first person and at the start she is 17 almost 18. She talks about her artist mother being so child-like that she (Michelle) was always in the mother role and her father relied on her to watch out for her mother. This is to explain why Michelle was so overprotective of her mother. Yet, I cannot understand why the father then leaves all the money in trust and names the mother as executor when there were more reliable people around. To show how stupid the mother is, she insists that her new husband is named as co-executor and Michelle finally gives in. To make it more ridiculous and the significance was never revealed, Horace insisted on adopting Michelle and having her change her name, even though she was 18 by this time. Then everyone accepts so naturally that Agatha, Michelle and Isabel are "sisters", though Agatha and Isabel are "half" and Michelle is "step".

The story actually begins with Michelle receiving a phone call while at boarding school that her stepfather died. She talks about the "horrors" she experienced in the short time she lived with him, then the story moves to the flashback to explain what happened. By the time we reach the half-way point in the book, which is when the flashback ends, I still didn't get the "horrors", though her mother died under suspicious circumstances. There were what seemed to be random events that were never explained and Michelle was hit on the head when trying to explore the tower. By the way, the tower played a minor part in the story and it's the secret of the tower not the door that had any significance. The only "horrors" I credit actually happened after Horace died yet Michelle didn't realize this until the end, of course.

I was extremely disappointed in this "Best-Seller Gothic Novel". There were so many inconsistencies. One such example is as above. Here are others: Isabel is married and pregnant but keeps this secret. She faints at a particular time and after she comes to, she asks what happens because she never faints. If she reviewed Michelle's diary a few pages back she would have realized that she fainted then and it wasn't the last time she'd faint. She proceeds to say she has never been sick a day in her life when she argues with Agatha, then later reveals to Michelle that she was on her deathbed as a child and her father was worried about the dogs. Agatha and Horace loved the dogs and used them to terrorize Isabel, so who killed the dogs? That was never explained. Del tells Michelle that he never intended to marry Betsy - that was Agatha's imagination. Really? It was Betsy who told Michelle she was marrying Del, right after she told Michelle she could see Michelle had a crush on Del and Del liked her as well. What woman would tell her rival that and still maintain a sincere friendship?

Yes, the conversations are so odd as well. Not to mention the above dialogue, how about when Isabel asks Agatha to increase her allowance after Horace dies:

"You have everything you need, Isabel."
"I don't. None of us does. You know how Father felt about us. Surely you're not going to carry on his ideas.
"I'll carry on those ideas which I think sensible. You ought to know that by now, my dear sister."
"Why not now?"
"Because the past is still with us, and you are an integral part of the past, Isabel. Your coming altered many lives."

Huh?

Oh yes, it's Michelle's money that Agatha controls. You see, after Horace was named co-executor, he named Agatha. And I believe Michelle could not touch the money until she was 21.

When I set aside my prejudices to finish the book, the story became more suspenseful as Agatha plays her hand very subtlely. If I just allowed myself to take it at face value, it might have been fine. Unfortunately, my left brain refused to lie low.

Isabel finally reveals she is married to Elliot. Isabel is around Michelle's age and Agatha was close to Michelle's mom's age, which I guessed to be in the late 30s. Agatha manages to drive a wedge between Isabel and Elliot by trying to make them all believe Isabel is mad and she inherited it from her mother. Her mother, Martha, was Agatha's second governess. I find it hard to swallow that the only person who does any "work" is Agatha and yet no one finds time to watch Isabel's moves to realize that she is not the one who is mad. We later find out that Martha died in childbirth when she was 21, so Isabel is concerned because she is 19 and thinks she's going mad. Hold on, if Isabel is 19 and her mother was 21, Martha would have been 40 if she lived. And Agatha is in her late 30s, so how was Martha her governess? The one she loved, the one who brushed her hair at night, the one she caught in bed with her father when she went to her room in the middle of the night when she got scared?

Yes, Agatha is the mad one and whose mother was mad. Which is the reason Horace was concerned about her, yet he named her as a trustee???

Throughout the book, you get the sense that every character was weak and had pretty much the same personality, except Agatha, who was omniscient. Though she didn't see you do it, she knew exactly what you were doing. Hence, her ability to take over every thread of life. Del was the "too stupid to live" hero. He claims to be the stronger twin, mentally and physically, yet he never proved himself. Yes, readers, he did not rescue the damsel in distress. She didn't even rescue herself. I can't exactly say how it happened, except that it was a fateful accident, not well planned by Agatha.

For entertainment value, I'd give it a C. If I was a creative writing teacher, I'd give this a D for inconsistency, poor dialogue and characterization, too many unexplained and trivial events and worthless title.
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#2
What a good review, thanks!
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