Monday, January 11, 2016

2. The Shadow of the Lynx by Victoria Holt

I picked this up at the new (to me anyways) Pulpfiction Books East on Commercial in Vancouver.  It was in the dollar bin in front of the cash register.  I also found an intriguing Colin Wilson there.  The store was small and nicely curated, with a relaxing vibe to it.  I'll go back next time I'm in Vancouver.

Anyway, my interest in gothic romance had waned a bit since the last Mary Stewart, so I was wary.  Something about the cover and the masculinity of the title made me feel that it might hold my interest.  It did.  It promised some of what I had hoped the form would deliver in fast pace and dynamic storyline, similar in structure though not in content to the genre of men's action.  The Shadow of the Lynx starts with a young orphan on a ship to Australia, chaperoned by the son of her dead father's business partner.  There is drama right away, as the learns of her chaperone's father, a wronged British prisoner who, through the power of will, had become a wealthy entrepeneur and has a almost godlike charisma. The story twists and turns and comes full circle.  The resolution was a bit deflating, but the ride there was so enjoyable. 

It's cool the way a female protagonist (the orphan on the boat) has power and implements her will in the strictures of the patriarchy of that time (of both times actually, the narrative, which takes place in the Edwardian period, and the early 70s when it was written).  She is hemmed in by the constraints of masculine rule.  But within those constrains, it is the forthrightness of her character and the use of her wit to analyze situations that allows her to succeed.  She is also passive to events around her and decisions made by those more powerful than her (mostly men, probably entirely).  Yet somehow those parts of the book didn't feel frustrating to me.  I think because her inner monologue never gives up her spirit, so you respect her.

So yes an enjoyable read. Victoria Holt is a pro and I see was quite prolific. I don't think I am up for a steady diet of her books, but she will be something I will continue to look for and read when the time is right.  Nice to have discovered her. 


Kelly Robinson said...

I really liked this sort of thing when I was an adolescent, and I would sneak them from my mom's bookshelf. I wonder if they'd hold up for me--not just Holt, but Phyllis Whitney and the other gothic romance powerhouses?

OlmanFeelyus said...

(sorry for the delay in approving your comment, Kelly. My feeling is that there must be some standouts in the field that are really, really good, equivalent to an excellent mystery writer. Those are what I am hunting down. I suspect Holt (and maybe Phyllis Whitney, but I need to read one of her books before knowing for sure) are on the popular side and the equivalent to Faye Kellerman or Jeffrey Deaver (well maybe not that bad), readable if you are in a pinch but not great stuff like Margaret Millar or Michael Gilbert.

I also wonder if because this was fiction marketed to women that it didn't get the same critical look that other genres got. There may be some real gems hidden away. Any gothic romance experts out there?