Sunday, September 4, 2016

Absent in Spring by Mary Westmacott

Absent in Spring
Mary Westmacott
4/5 stars

Agatha Christie wrote under the pen name of "Mary Westmacott" for six books that are not mysteries, but rather explore a character's motive, psyche and relationships.  Absent in Spring (1944) focuses on Joan Scudamore who is stranded in a desert Rest House in between trains.  With no fellow travelers and no books to read, she finds her mind wandering to her past and, she begins to question who she really is.

It is written in a nearly stream-of-consciousness style, with little action or description that does not take place within Joan's head.  Westmacott does an excellent job of this, immersing the reader in Joan's musings without continually drawing attention to that fact.  She gives the reader just enough clues to piece together the truth of Joan's memories, and to see what she either can not or will not see.  As Joan sinks deeper into her own thoughts, the reader is left wondering whether Joan will come out improved, unchanged, or insane.  Just as the story begins to feel like it might become too long, the train comes and Joan leaves for home.  Again, Westmacott leaves the reader anxious to see what the outcome will be, and the realistic ending does not disappoint.

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