28 June 2015

REVIEW: Burnt Mountain (Anne Rivers Siddons)

"Choose your love; love your choice."
~ Thomas S. Monson

Burnt Mountain by Anne Rivers Siddons

It was my end-of-school resolution to read more books for leisure this summer. Unfortunately, I usually cannot read more than one or two books for leisure during the academic year due to the many novels I read as part of my advanced English classes' curricula, so I focus most of my reading-for-enjoyment on summertime.
Image via Amazon.

Burnt Mountain is the first novel I've read since the end of school about two weeks ago. I chose to read it because the summary on its back cover intrigued me, and it was also of a short length (323 pages), so I knew I could read it quickly.

At first, I found the novel difficult to read. It takes place in the U.S. South; I'm a native of the northern United States, and while I have nothing against the South, I have seldom visited there and the culture is rather unfamiliar to me. Because this novel incorporated many aspects of the Southern lifestyle, it was hard to comprehend at some points.

Another issue I had with this book is the naming of most of the characters. Of course every author has the indisputable right to name their characters however they choose -- I support that -- but in this novel it was almost distracting from the plot, especially in the beginning of the book when many characters were being introduced in a short amount of time.

For instance, the female protagonist's name is Thayer (not only is this an uncommon name, but it is also typically a male name, and in this story it is Thayer's mother's maiden name). Thayer's mother's name is Crystal and her father's name is Finch. Thayer's husband, who is Irish-born, has the name Aengus O'Neill. (Can you think of a more stereotypically Irish name?) Thayer's grandmother hires a black chauffeur named Detritus (I had never heard that name before). Thayer's neighbour has a son named Bummer (I don't know whether that is his real name or a nickname). The most normal names that I came across in this book were Caroline, Owen, and Nick.

And, to be honest, the plot is slow to get going. Much of the beginning of the story is background information, such as descriptions of how Thayer's parents met and got married. Not only that, but even when the plot focuses on Thayer herself, it first discusses her life as a teenager, before finally describing the present (when she is a married young adult). In my opinion, the story was a bit slow until about chapter seven or eight.

Towards the end, though, I started to enjoy the book more. I was reading about three or four chapters a day, opposed to the one chapter I read every day during the beginning of the novel. I liked the conflicts that Thayer faced within her family, her marriage, and her reflections upon her adolescence. But I didn't very much enjoy the very end of the book (as in, the final chapter and the epilogue); these parts felt rushed and, in some places, unclear. I feel as though, by the very end of the book, Aengus's character development completely fell apart and he had lost his entire role in the story.

Unfortunately, I would most likely not recommend this novel to somebody. However, if they are looking for a quick read that has some interesting plot twists throughout, and if they enjoy Southern culture, then I would mention it to them.

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