Photographer Clare Porterfield's once-happy marriage is coming apart, unraveling under the strain of a family tragedy. Read more...
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Photographer Clare Porterfield's once-happy marriage is coming apart, unraveling under the strain of a family tragedy. When she receives an invitation to direct an exhibition in her hometown of Galveston, Texas, she jumps at the chance to escape her grief and reconnect with the island she hasn't seen for ten years. There Clare will have the time and space to search for answers about her troubled past and her family's complicated relationship with the wealthy and influential Carraday family.
Soon she finds herself drawn into a century-old mystery involving Stella Carraday. Local legend has it that Stella drowned in her family's house during the Great Hurricane of 1900, hanged by her long hair from the drawing room chandelier. Could Stella have been saved? What is the true nature of Clare's family's involvement? The questions grow like the wildflower vines that climb up the walls and fences of the island. And the closer Clare gets to the answers, the darker and more disturbing the truth becomes.
Steeped in the rich local history of Galveston, "The Drowning House" portrays two families, inextricably linked by tragedy and time.
""The Drowning House" marks the emergence of an impressive new literary voice. Elizabeth Black's suspenseful inquiry into dark family secrets is enriched by a remarkable succession of images, often minutely observed, that bring characters, setting, and story sharply into focus." --John Berendt, author of "Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil"
Publishers Weekly® Reviews
- Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page .
- Review Date: 2012-10-08
- Reviewer: Staff
Galveston, Tex., a place indelibly marked by the hurricane of 1900, which took well over 6,000 lives, is the setting for Black’s fine debut. In present day, after the death of her six-year-old daughter and the collapse of her marriage, a broken Clare Porterfield returns to her island hometown after a decade away. She’s been invited to choose material for a photo exhibition funded by the prominent Carraday family, whose patriarch, the Jay Gatsbyesque Will, has deep ties to Clare’s mother, Eleanor. As children, Will’s son, Patrick, and Clare were inseparable, their youthful exploits in and around the Porterfield house gradually tending toward the illegal, but a tragedy involving Patrick sent Clare away from home. Although Clare returns to look at photos of the island’s history, what she really seeks is what remains of her wounded self. As Clare searches for the elusive Patrick, the true object of her desire, island characters divulge truths to which she was never privy. As Galveston’s past comes to light, so, too, does Clare’s—and it’s so full of woe it nearly drowns the story. Nevertheless, Black mythologizes this landscape, evoking its essence and that of its inhabitants, creating a novel that is far more than the sum of its parts. Agent: Mollie Glick, Foundry Literary + Media. (Jan.)
Drawn to the secrets back home
The island of Galveston is a strange kind of American microcosm, existing both as its own slightly warped little world and as an important thread in the national fabric. It’s Texas but not Texas; tourist-filled and welcoming, yet uniquely distant; and always dangerously close to natural disaster. Elizabeth Black sets her spellbinding debut novel, a story of secrets, loss and the redemptive power of truth, against this compelling backdrop.
Clare is a celebrated New York photographer whose life crumbles in the wake of tragedy. When an invitation to stage an exhibit of her work promises to take her back to Galveston, her hometown, Clare relishes the chance to escape the stifling world of her married life. But back home, she finds old secrets stirring, and she becomes captivated with a decades-old legend of a drowned girl and what it means for her family’s own relationship with the wealthy, almost mythological Carradays of Galveston.
Black’s luxurious prose makes Galveston into a dark, fading fairy-tale world, and her descriptions of Clare’s internal strife reveal a keen insight into the human condition that eludes many more seasoned novelists. A page-turning chronicle of grief and memory, The Drowning House is a remarkable blend of human drama and satisfyingly Southern Gothic mystery, propelled by Black’s lyrical, haunting narration.