Monday, October 17, 2011

Audio Book Review: BURNT MOUNTAIN by Anne Rivers Siddons; read by Kate Reading

read by Kate Reading

 Pub. Date: July 2011
Publisher: Hachette Audio
Format: Compact Disc
ISBN-13: 9781607882497
ISBN: 1607882493

Description (from the publisher):
From one of our most acclaimed writers comes this dramatic tale of a well-born Southern woman whose life is forever changed by the betrayal of her mother and by the man she loves.

Growing up, the only place tomboy Thayer Wentworth felt at home was at her summer camp - Camp Sherwood Forest in the North Carolina Mountains. It was there that she came alive and where she met Nick Abrams, her first love...and first heartbreak.

Years later, Thayer marries Aengus, an Irish professor, and they move into her deceased grandmother's house in Atlanta, only miles from Camp Edgewood on Burnt Mountain where her father died years ago in a car accident. There, Aengus and Thayer lead quiet and happy lives until Aengus is invited up to the camp to tell old Irish tales to the campers. As Aengus spends less time at home and becomes more distant, Thayer must confront dark secrets-about her mother, her first love, and, most devastating of all, her husband.

My Rating: 2 Perplexed Stars out of 5

My Thoughts: I'm perplexed. Though I suppose I shouldn't be. Before I began listening to the audio version of BURNT MOUNTAIN by Anne Rivers Siddons, I was somewhat aware that it wasn't receiving great reviews. I try to avoid reading actual reviews before I begin a book myself because I don't want to be influenced or encounter any spoilers. I might get a feel for the general popularity of a title without learning any particulars. In the case of BURNT MOUNTAIN, I thought the storyline sounded interesting, and I've enjoyed the author's work in the past, so I plunged on in (much like the kids pictured on the cover!).

I found most of BURNT MOUNTAIN to be very enjoyable. Siddons takes her time laying out the backstory of her lead character, Thayer Wentworth. Descriptions of Thayer's privileged though troubled childhood are detailed and lush. Thayer and her mother, Crystal, don't have much fondness for one another, but she's able to compensate because she connects so well with her father (whose character Crystal has never fully appreciated) and with her paternal grandmother, Grand, who sees something of herself in Thayer. Crystal is dissatisfied that she hasn't been able to achieve the social standing to which she always aspired and is somewhat bitter and resentful that her marriage into the prestigious Wentworth family hasn't provided the exaltation she craves. What she can't achieve for herself, she hopes to secure for her daughters - whether they want it or not. Sometimes the interplay between Crystal and Grand is quite amusing. Grand has no delusions about Crystal's values and occasionally enjoys thwarting and subtly taunting her. However, even Grand's cleverness and financial advantages cannot protect Thayer from her mother's selfish and dark scheming. If this were a fairy tale, Crystal would be cast as the evil stepmother.

The problems I had with BURNT MOUNTAIN have their beginnings at about the halfway mark after Thayer's heart is broken just before she begins college. During her final semester, after four years of living in a sort of shell-shocked bubble, she falls quickly and deeply in love with Aengus, a professor of Celtic folklore. From that point on, Siddons seems to have lost control of the story. The plot takes a very dark turn and, frankly, I wasn't sure if we were dealing with obsession turned to madness, pedophilia, the supernatural, or a combination of all three! Then, suddenly, what should be a rather spectacular denouement falls flat, the story is wrapped up in a very unsatisfying epilogue, and that's all she wrote!

I was quite literally left scratching my head and saying "Huhhh??" Not only do I not understand the ending of the story but I'm also wondering about the author. Did she become ill and rush through the ending? Did she just lose interest? Was there a falling out with the publisher, agent . . . Did someone else finish writing this book for her?  What happened?! I'm concerned for her. And I'm very disappointed.

This book is just not up to Siddons' usual standards. If Anne Rivers Siddons is a new author for you, I would recommend that you read one of her other titles, several of which I've enjoyed. Regrettably, I cannot recommend BURNT MOUNTAIN.

Regarding the work of the reader, Kate Reading, I thought she was wonderful, and I have no criticisms whatsoever. I found the timber of her voice to be pleasant, her ability to slip into a variety of accents impressive, and her pacing spot on. I'm learning that when it comes to audio books, I have favorite readers just as I have favorite authors. Kate Reading is definitely on my Favs List.

About the author (from the publisher):
Anne Rivers Siddons is one of America’s most beloved novelists. A New York Times bestselling author, she has written sixteen previous novels: Sweetwater Creek, Islands, Nora Nora, Low Country, Up Island, Fault Lines, Downtown, Hill Towns, Colony, Outer Banks, King’s Oak, Peachtree Road, Homeplace, Fox’s Earth, The House Next Door, and Heartbreak Hotel. She is also the author of a work of nonfiction, John Chancellor Makes Me Cry OFF SEASON, was released in August 2008. She and her husband, Heyward, split their time between their homes in South Carolina and Maine.

Disclaimer: I received a copy of this audio book for review purposes only. I have not received any form of compensation in exchange for my honest opinion.


bermudaonion said...

I have this on audio so I'm really disappointed to see it's not up to Siddon's usual standards.

Tina said...

I'm right there with you on this one...just did not like the ending or the story line once she met Aengus...very disappointing. I thought it was just me, but now, like you, I'm starting to see more and more who were not recommending it. Too bad, because Siddons has been on my favorites list for years, and now I'm going to have to do the old buyer beware before picking up another of her books. Let's hope it's a one time OOPS.

Zibilee said...

Wow, it says a lot that after you finished reading this one that you were concerned for the author. Now that makes me curious enough to pick this one up and try it out, but not quite! I am with you on books that seem to take a complete 180 during the second half. They often confuse and puzzle me for a lot of different reasons. Great and very candid review on this one!