Debbie (Jupiter, FL)
I think that Ms. Goodman did a nice job with character development and maintaining the "gothic" feel to the story. However I felt that the sections which focused on Lily's diary were too long and took away from the smooth flow of the story as well as the feeling of suspense. I also think that while the plot twists were good - there was one too many - making the ending feel a bit contrived and too convenient. I would probably recommend it to book clubs more for a good discussion of some of the themes/symbolism threaded throughout the story - i.e. beech tree, forest, mother/daughter themes,etc.
Phyllis R. (East New Market, MD)
Stories Within a Story
Having read most of Carol Goodman's novels, I looked forward to Arcadia Falls. It resembles her other novels in its setting in upstate New York in the closed society of a remote boarding school. The writing is beautiful and incorporates classical references. Meg Rosenthal and her daughter relocate there after being left almost destitute by her husband's death. The setting is beautifully described, but the atmosphere is sinister. The menace is encouraged by the Pagan ceremonies the school celebrates, the strange behavior of some students, and by the unsolved deaths associated with the school.
The story holds one's interest and incorporates fairy tales, some written by one of the school's founders. I found this thread interesting since I have done some research on fairy tale motifs in fiction. The love interest is not believably developed, but seems inevitable.
Meg attempts to solve the mysteries associated with the school while improving her relationship with her daughter, which presents more problems than the former. In the end, all secrets and relationships are revealed, some rather hurriedly.
A good read, but not her best.
Kathrin C. (Corona, CA)
Magic and mystery with complicated fairy tale undertones
Up until now I haven’t read any of Carol Goodman’s novels, and have always wanted to because of reviews and praise heaped on her earlier works. I certainly began reading Arcadia Falls with a strong anticipation for an intriguing mix of magic and mystery with complicated fairy tale undertones. However, before even getting a third of the way through, my reading was definitely dragging. Meg Rosenthal and her daughter Sally couldn’t seem to shake themselves out of predictable interactions and behavior which was better suited to a young adult novel. And the Arcadia School staff members were both underdressed and undercut in vague strangeness. The tale did recapture my interest when it became more immersed in the original founders of the school. I think if they had become the story unto itself, the book would have been overall more successful.
But this hasn’t deterred me from wanting to read some of her other works – Goodman is definitely a talented writer.
Sharon B. (Rome, GA)
Arcadia Falls by Carol Goodman is a good mystery set at a remote and unusual boarding school. The plot grabs the reader and moves fast enough to keep the pages turning. It’s a good vacation read and the fairy tale element could make for good discussions in book clubs. I enjoyed the book so much that I have read another book by Goodman – The Lake of Dead Languages.
Patricia S. (Chicago, IL)
I have been a huge fan of Carol Goodman since discovering her a couple of years ago and eagerly awaited her newest book. I was not disappointed. In Arcadia Falls, Goodman returns to upstate New York, at a private art school in the hills, and literature teacher Meg Rosenthal. The art school has been the scene of one tragic death in the steep valley adjoining the campus and almost as soon as Meg arrives, another death occurs in a fall from the same ridge. Were they both accidental? The suspense grows until the frightening ending, and in true Goodman style, things were never what they seemed. Goodman's wonderful language fills the book, bringing to life the woods turning to winter, the main street of a small arts town, and the teenage students. Although the revelation of identities and relations at the end of the book seemed rushed and not quite true to the story, I would still give this book a top rating.
Susan S. (Lafayette, CA)
A haunting mystery
Arcadia Falls is a haunting mystery set during winter months at a remote boarding school in upstate New York. The author does a wonderful job with the sense of place and climate – you can feel the isolation and the oppressiveness of the cold, foggy weather and short days and the danger of the snowy terrain, all of which add to the sense of desperation and fear felt by the main character. I thought that the depiction of the students and their interests was a little bit unrealistic, but the mystery itself was enjoyably complex, with a very satisfying denouement.
Betsey V. (Austin, TX)
Not one of her best--formulaic and geared for YA readers
This is not up to Goodman's standard of The Lake of Dead Languages or The Drowning Tree. It read like a YA novel, with thin and obvious characterizations and vacuous emotions. The plot twists were so convenient and coincidental that it was utterly unbelievable. As an adult novel, I would give it 2-stars. I am being generous and rating it 3-stars where it belongs--for young readers (ages 13-16). Goodman can enthrall with her knowledge of folklore and folktales, and I like that she weaves them into the story, although ultimately it was a strained stitching. When she created and explored these ancient tales, I was immersed and satisfied. But the modern-day story was disingenuous--it felt like bad Lifetime TV.
There was a haunting atmosphere at the start of the novel, and I initially enjoyed the relationship issues between mother and daughter. However, it devolved into shallow contrivance. Moreover, the love interest of the main character was almost featureless (except at the beginning), and the emotions between them rang false. It was arid. Not even up to adult chick-lit standards.
Overall, except for Goodman's keen grasp of folklore and her vivid imagination, she gave it a dry and formulaic narrative and outcome. I won't give up on this author, as I have enjoyed several of her books in the past. I am waiting for her to write another juicy page-turner.