Happy New Year! I had considered posting about my reading plans for 2015 today but, to be honest, I don’t really have any. I know I want to do some re-reading this year, as that’s something I’ve been neglecting, but apart from that I don’t have any specific goals in mind. I want to keep things stress-free and just read the books that I really want to read without worrying about challenges and targets. I do still have some December reads to tell you about, so I thought I would get on with writing about those instead…starting with Susanna Kearsley’s 2001 novel, Season of Storms.
Our narrator, Celia Sands, is a twenty-two-year-old actress who has been offered the lead role in a play being staged at an outdoor theatre in the grounds of Il Piacere, an Italian villa. The play – Il Prezzo – was written in the 1920s by the playwright Galeazzo D’Ascanio for his lover, another actress also called Celia Sands. The night before the play was due to have its first performance, the first Celia disappeared and was never seen again.
Now, decades later, the second Celia Sands (no relation to the first despite being named after her) has been invited by D’Ascanio’s grandson, Alessandro, to star in a renewed version of the play. Arriving at Il Piacere, she meets the other people involved with the play and soon becomes aware of tensions within the group; it seems to Celia that everyone has a secret to hide. As the preparations continue and rehearsals begin, strange things start to happen – a servant disappears without trace, a man is found dead, and Celia suspects that her room may be haunted – and the mysteries of the past become entwined with the mysteries of the present.
Season of Storms is the seventh Susanna Kearsley book I’ve read and the first one I’ve been slightly disappointed by. I think part of the problem was that the pace was very slow at the beginning and the story took a very long time to really get started; I think the book could probably have been a lot shorter without losing any essential plot points. By the time the various threads of the novel began to come together in the second half of the book I was struggling to stay interested.
Unlike some of Kearsley’s other books, this one is set almost entirely in the present with only a few flashbacks in which we are given some glimpses of Galeazzo D’Ascanio and the first Celia Sands. The connections between the past and present storylines weren’t strong enough and I felt that the historical one wasn’t resolved properly; I would have liked more focus on solving the mystery of the first Celia’s disappearance and on the supernatural aspects of the novel, which never really came to anything. I was also disappointed by the romantic side of the story – there was no real spark between Celia and her eventual romantic interest and he was not one of my favourite Kearsley heroes.
On a more positive note, Kearsley’s novels always have wonderful settings and this one is no exception! Il Piacere, the playwright’s villa, is on Lake Garda, somewhere I have never been but have always wanted to visit. The descriptions of the estate and the surrounding area are beautiful. Before arriving at Il Piacere, Celia spends some time in Venice, which is somewhere I have visited and I loved watching her explore St Mark’s Square and the Basilica, the canals and the bridges.
There were other things that I liked – the little theatrical touches such as dividing the story into Acts and Scenes and starting the chapters with quotes from plays; and Celia’s relationship with Bryan and Rupert, the gay couple who raised her when her glamorous actress mother neglected her – but there were too many negative points for me to really be able to say that I enjoyed this book.
Not a favourite, then, but I’m pleased I still have two more unread Susanna Kearsley novels to read – and a new one, A Desperate Fortune, to look forward to in 2015.