Book Review: Women Of the Dunes

By Sarah Maine

Historical Fiction / Cultural; Scotland

MY SYNOPSIS:

Libby Snow is an archeologist with a passion for a Viking legend her grandmother passed onto her from her grandmother. When work takes her to Scotland to excavate a site believed to hold a body tied to the Viking legend, Libby is excited to unfold the truth. Instead, she finds a Victorian age body from what appears to be a crime scene that may have actually involved her great-great-grandmother or someone who knew her.

The legend, the crime, and Libby’s family history are all tied together in a terrible knot. She tries to untangle her own family mystery, but she is also dealing with the family on whose estate this excavation & crime has taken place. Their dark secrets are blocking Libby from unveiling the truth of both the legend and of her family.

WHY I PICKED THIS BOOK:

I was preparing for a trip to Scotland and brought two books with me: ‘Kidnapped’ by Robert Louis Stevenson, and this book. The idea was to stay in Scotland even as I read, and should I not finish the books by the time I returned, I’d still be in Scotland via the book. Also, I really enjoy historical fiction and certainly love a decent crime novel. This had a lot of my favorite things all tied into one.

WHAT WAS DISAPPOINTING:

My typical complaint; it was too slow to start. I remember saying to my sister one night in our lovely B&B in the highlands, “I don’t know if I’m going to finish this book. It’s just not going anywhere and I’m feeling a lame romance coming on.”  Not to mention it took a while for the story to even get to Scotland. I very rarely am quick to take to a book so this is nothing new for me, but I really did think I was going to stop reading this one. I just didn’t care about Libby or her curiosities. Also, as the story shifted from one age to another telling one of three stories, I (with my short attention span) had a bit of a time keeping up and becoming emotionally attached at all. If I hadn’t been on vacation in lovely B&B’s every night I may not have continued – boy am I glad I did!

WHY I KEPT READING:

The body. Obviously I can’t give anything away, but there is a point when what I thought was going to turn into a lame romance turns into an interesting crime novel (and more). Plus Libby finally got to Scotland. There were more characters, more secrets, I was more emotionally invested, and just like that, I couldn’t put it down. The back and forth between the three stories became more interesting to me as they slowly revealed their connections to each other.

TAKE AWAY:

This is a beautiful novel that not only takes you to Scotland, but it also explores a lot about family more so than it does history. There is mystery and action and plenty of odd twists and turns that kept me involved with so many of the characters. The relationships here are so real, the setting so vivid, Sarah Maine does a fantastic job putting you right there with the other characters to feel their hopes and fears. You finish the story and end up missing their home, their faces, even their voices. Fantastic writing that has me wanting more of this writer’s work.

FINAL THOUGHTS:

I finished this book back here at home in Philadelphia but it was a great way to stay overseas just a bit longer. This book, regardless of what seemed like a slow start for me, kept me in a place for a long time. I visualize the island and the house in my mind more like a memory of somewhere I have been rather than as a fictitious place I read about. I highly recommend this book to lovers of travel, mystery, and family dynamics.

POSTSCRIPT:

I just want to have a cup of tea in that kitchen please.

 

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