Sunday, August 12, 2012

A Mind of Winter by Shira Nayman

Review based on ARC.

I was initially intrigued by this book because its title and brief description made me think of reading a cozy psychological thriller.  Fortunately, Nayman moves the reader seamlessly into an intriguing story.  I say fortunately because there are portions of the book that don't move the reader along as effortlessly as others, but the initial intrigue of Oscar's situation drives the reader through those less exciting portions.

You can read the basic description of the book in other reviews & on the book jacket, but very briefly, Nayman presents a story of mystery and intrigue through the perspectives of Oscar and two women in his life, Christine and Marilyn.  Oscar may have committed some horrible crime and may be the victim of mistaken identities, or perhaps both.  Christine is his love who has left upon discovery of his crime, and Marilyn is his companion, a war photographer who enjoys the life of his mansion and his parties (it is this part that seems to remind people of the Great Gatsby, though I find Nayman's portrayals more interesting).

Oscar's incredibly brief introduction somewhat sets the stage for the reader to be pulled into the overall story.  But the book truly starts with Christine, after she has left Oscar, after she has become addicted to Opium, and near her point of desperation.  Nayman flits between past and present with ease, and I even thought at one point that the book, written by a lesser writer, would have left me confused and annoyed.  Instead, Christine's tale is convincing and understood, artfully written and non-gratuitously told.  I felt that Nayman was a little brilliant in her ability to present Christine so well, despite my discomfort with some of the subject matter (for you more sensitive readers, please know that this story involves various types of sexual assault, but Nayman does not gratuitously divulge the details).

Then we are rather abruptly moved to Marilyn's main story.  It is abrupt largely because it is so very different from where we are left at the end of Christine's "chapter."  There is some darkness, but Marilyn is not currently staggering through the darkness, which is (essentially) where we left Christine.  As others have stated, her portion is, overall, the least moving, but it serves its purpose in the book.  I'm not yet sure if I would have preferred more depth into Marilyn's character, or a quicker foray...

And we are finally reintroduced to Oscar.  The discovery, the tied up loose ends, the conclusion... well I like satisfying ends.  I know it's trendy to leave the reader frustrated, but I appreciate a writer who is willing to actually conclude a tale.  It does not, of course, conclude the lives of the characters therein, but it leaves the reader with a sense of satisfaction.  I appreciated Nayman's decision and felt she did a nice job of wrapping up this dark and anxious tale.

Overall, a thoughtful read, a dark read.  I recommend to people seeking something more challenging -- particularly more emotionally challenging.

THREE AND A HALF of five stars.

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