Rated of 5
by 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.
Rated of 5
by 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.
Rated of 5
by Patricia S. (Chicago, IL) Arcadia Falls
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.
Rated of 5
by 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.
Rated of 5
by Hollie D. (Sunbury, OH) So close....
Carol Goodman is pretty reliable, and I’ve read all of her novels, but with Arcadia Falls, I think she slips a bit. I’m frustrated because she’s so very close to writing great stories, but they don’t always transcend just average fiction. That said, I enjoyed the book and can’t say I’m sorry I spent the time reading it.
She wobbles a bit here from her usual commitment to hiding clues in material objects, an art history approach that I always find entertaining and didn’t find as much of here. The “story within a story” approach appears in all her books, but not to as much advantage here as in other works. She still has a terrific ability to generate atmosphere, and the haunting atmosphere of the woods serves the story well.
I did wish for a slightly less convoluted plot. I don’t mind mulling a book over afterward, but if I have to stop ten pages from the end to say, “So that means that….???,” then that’s probably not a good sign. Arcadia Falls also stretches my limits of credulity – we’re supposed to believe that the protagonist finds a long-missing journal from a woman she’s spent years researching for a doctoral thesis, and it takes her weeks to get to the end of it?
As said, just a few small flaws which, in my opinion, keep Arcadia Falls from being one of Goodman’s best works to date. But she’s close enough that I’ll be first in line for the next book!
Rated of 5
by Sharon V. (Chicago, IL) Arcadia Falls
The name of this book could be “The Changeling Girl”, the fairy tale written by Lily Eberhardt, one of the founders of the artists’ colony at Arcadia Falls. The story shifts from the present day where Meg and her daughter Sally relocate from Great Neck to the 1920’s when the artist’s colony is founded by Vera and Lily and story really begins.
The magical setting of Arcadia Falls almost seems to be the main character of the story where the artists, students and townspeople who live there play more minor roles through their relationships and life choices. The folklore and legend of the White Witch add to the spiritual quality of the beautiful yet dangerous terrain of the clove where the trees seem to whisper.
Tensions between mothers and daughters, questions of identity and a passion for art provide a common thread between the modern and historic time periods as more of the mystery is revealed leading to a surprising yet satisfying conclusion.
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