The Visitors by Catherine Burns
eBook review copy; 304 pages
The Visitors by Catherine Burns is a recommended debut novel featuring a
psychological character study.
Marion Zetland is in her mid-fifties and lives with her domineering
older brother, John, in a decaying Georgian townhouse they inherited
along with sizeable trust funds. While John is a cantankerous
abusive bully, Marion remains living with him, probably because she
has the emotional and mental acumen of a young girl. Marion, who is
the narrator of the novel, has been bullied her whole life so life
with John is normal. She has her stuffed animal friends to comfort
her, along with her imaginary friend.
What she'd really like to ignore, and does a questionably admirable
job doing just that, is the visitors in the cellar. She knows John
has women down there. He says he's teaching them English and
mathematics. She sometimes hears cries, screams and calls for help,
which she chooses to not think about.
The narrative alternates between Marion's experiences in the present and
flashbacks to her past. she does a lot of ruminating/thinking about her
life and the mistreatment she has experienced at the hands of others.
John is, naturally, a part of her inner dialogue and he was just as
disagreeable as a child as he is as an adult. Marion relates key details
about her life that will come into play much later in the novel.
Interspersed between Marion's inner dialogue are email exchanges with
someone that will be understood at the end of the novel.
While I did appreciate some elements of this character driven novel
and the unreliable narrator we find in Marion, I also need to admit
that this one was slow going for me and was not a particularly
compelling thriller. It's more a psychological character study than a
thriller. I forced myself to get through Marion's endless
stories. In the end, her stories do have a point to them, but
reaching the end is a bit of a slog-through them. I also need to note
that John is not hospitalized until the last third of the novel. Based
on the synopsis you expect this to happen much sooner than it does and,
well, most readers aren't going to be so horrified at Marion's discovery
of his secret because of all the foreshadowing.
The quality of the writing is good, but the slow pacing removes much of
the suspense. I wasn't surprised at any twists or revelations unveiled
at the end. Adding to this lack of suspense is the lack of sympathy that
I could muster for any of the characters, including Marion. This was
just an okay novel for me.
My review copy was courtesy of Gallery/Scout