A solid structure allows for magic

Mariana

By Susanna Kearsley

The first time Julia Beckett saw Greywethers she was only five, but she knew that it was her house. And now that she’s at last become its owner, she suspects that she was drawn there for a reason.

As if Greywethers were a portal between worlds, she finds herself transported into seventeenth-century England, becoming Mariana, a young woman struggling against danger and treachery, and battling a forbidden love.

Each time Julia travels back, she becomes more enthralled with the past…until she realizes Mariana’s life is threatening to eclipse her own, and she must find a way to lay the past to rest or lose the chance for happiness in her own time.

-via Goodreads
I always enjoy Susanna Kearsley’s books. I discovered them in the past few years without realizing she has been published since 1993. I thought she had an amazing output as all the books have a cover theme that ties them to her. Turns out reissuing books with new covers can really invigorate interest and sales.
I purchased Mariana with no knowledge of the plot. There was no need. Turns out it begins with a dream that I have and assume many people have – knowing where you should be. Julia Beckett sees an old house three times in her lifetime and, thanks to an inheritance from an aunt, is able to purchase the home. This inheritance is one of many things that need to occur in certain stories to allow room for the action.
A brief list:
  • A job that allows flexibility and free time (Julia is a children’s book illustrator)
  • A bit of money that takes that mundane concern off the table (the aforementioned inheritance)
  • A locale that encourages social meetings (small English town with a pub at the epicenter)
  • A best friend (the bartender at said pub)
  • A supportive family member (brother who lives nearby)
  • Multiple love interests that strongly contrast (in this case, two friends – one a gardener, the other owns the grand estate which now conducts tours to the public)

(Now that I think about it, this list is also required for most rom-coms.)
I’m not knocking this list of elements that appear in many books. There is a reason for this structure, because that is what the list represents – a foundation for the story to be told. Having the bare bones architecture in place is necessary for all the variances between each and every story about a woman trying to make a place for herself in the world that includes romance. The structure makes it so very easy to slip into the world and what surprises await.
In this case, the surprise was reincarnation. Julia begins to have uncontrollable visions as if she were a woman living centuries before. The visions are linked to the house and the outlying area. She can’t help but wonder if that makes them real. Julia eventually confides in her brother, a vicar with an astonishing capacity for wonder and difficult questions. It is the brother who begins the conversation about reincarnation.
Told in a first person point of view, I was completely with Julia through her journey. Not just because it was first person but because her limited information contained the full picture and forced the parsing out of valuable knowledge. This is an excellent tactic that might not have paid off in third person, even if the narration stayed over Julia’s shoulder.

As I am outlining my novel, I’ve been debating between first person and third person POV. I see the benefits of first person clearly in Mariana – the reader knows only what the protagonist knows, the reader is forced to take the journey with the protagonist, the reader knows in a more intimate way what the protagonist is feeling and thinking. But there are images and scenes that I can see in my head for my book that I wouldn’t be able to describe if the POV is first person. That will be my big decision once I’m ready for the first draft. I know I can change it in another draft but switching points of view is a huge editing process. Maybe I’ll flip a coin.

Fun FactMariana was published in 1995 and totally holds up. There are no cell phones or internet. Possibly it is my romantic image of village life that allows me to disregard these commonplace contemporary elements of life. But they weren’t necessary to the story. Julia would most likely have left her cell phone at home when she had a vision and started acting it out, sometimes walking through the village that once was and still is. I appreciate how the story was so compelling that I assumed it took place in 2015.
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