Customer Reviews for

The Drowning Tree

Average Rating 4.5
( 24 )
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  • Posted April 29, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    Dark and mysterious literary fiction.

    I'm not joking when I say Carol Goodman could be my idol. Granted, I've only read two of her books, but she's exactly the kind of writer I hope to be some day. Her novels are full of artistic and literary themes, with beautifully dynamic settings. Who wouldn't want to write such intriguingly mysterious books?

    The Drowning Tree centers around Juno McKay as she's forced to confront her past during a reunion at Penrose College. When her best friend, Christine Webb, is chosen to give a speech on a famous stained glass window about to be restored by Juno's family, Juno knows she has to attend. But it turns out that Christine has done some behind-the-scenes research, and seems to have discovered a bit of history about the founders of Penrose College that the current President, Gavin Penrose, may not be so excited about. When Christine dies unexpectedly, Juno is left with nothing but Christine's research and a handful of suspects. When links to Juno's mentally disturbed ex-husband start to surface, she no longer knows who she can trust.

    Goodman's writing is smooth and Juno's voice is incredibly informative and consistant. But more than the characters themselves, I love the environments Goodman creates. The Drowning Tree has a burned out skeleton of a mansion called Astolat, a prestigious all-girls college with a shadowy history, and a haunting statue garden drowned under a river. I can't imagine where she comes up with them, but her scenes are intensely dark and beautiful. Throughout the novel are themes of art and lust, as well as greco-roman mythology. The founders of the college were artists and their paintings of nymphs and mythological scenes are described so vividly and hauntingly, I can picture them if I shut my eyes.

    As with Arcadia Falls (her most recent book), Goodman leaves you guessing until the end. You think you've solved the mystery and know who the killer is, but you're wrong. Could it be Juno's possible new love interest, the kayak instructor Kyle? Could it be the founding family's grandson, current Penrose President, Gavin Penrose? Could her very own ex-husband Neil have done it? Fresh from his years in the local mental institution? Or did Christine succumb to her fear of depression and kill herself? The end happens quick, so fast you might miss it if you aren't looking.

    Goodman is two-for-two in my book. I strongly recommend her novels. 5 stars

    (I purchased this book)

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted January 9, 2010

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    A great literary mystery

    Juno McKay is a single mother, divorced after her mentally ill husband tried to drown himself, along with her and their child fourteen years earlier. Now she has a small company that restores stained glass windows in the Hudson River Valley. Penrose College, where she went to school, has commissioned her to restore the revered stained glass window, The Lady in the Window, based on Tennyson's poem, The Lady of Shalott. Christine Webb is Juno's best friend and has been selected to give a lecture on the window before it is removed for restoration. After the lecture, Juno sees Christine off at the train station but a few days later her body is found in the Hudson River, near the college and estate of it's deceased founder, Augustus Penrose. Juno discovers that while researching The Lady window, Christine uncovered some secrets about the founder, his wife, and her sister. And Juno discovers that Christine was also in contact with Juno's ex-husband Neil who has spent the last several years at Briarwood, the mental institution upriver. Juno still dreams about Neil and has never loved anyone since him. But he is a suspect in Christine's death as is Augustus' grandson and current Penrose College President, Gavin Penrose.

    My review:

    This is the fifth book by Carol Goodman that I have read but I think it is my favorite. It was her third one written after The Lake of Dead Languages and The Seduction of Water. Like those, The Drowning Tree is set in a small town in upstate New York along the Hudson River, which is a locale that I just love.

    The author describes fictional art work based on Ovid mythology and Pre-Ralphaelite paintings. The Drowning Tree is the name of one such work of art. Plus, the Tiffany references with regards to the stained glass made this a very artistic mystery. I also love the water references. Goodman is so descriptive and poetic but not overly so. Plus she can write a good mystery. Her characters are well-rounded and interesting. Juno is raising an amazing daughter Bea, has two adopted greyhounds, named Paulo and Francesca, taken from Dante. She is a townie in a college town who is a strong, though low-key character.

    I think Goodman's work is under-rated. Her first three books are really very good. I also read The Night Villa which I didn't care for that much though it was set in the beautiful Mediterranean. The Ghost Orchid was just okay and I haven't read The Sonnet Lover yet. I know authors like to branch out, but I really prefer her early works and hope she returns to those types of settings. But I strongly recommend this novel!

    my review 5/5

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted December 9, 2008

    more from this reviewer

    Fine mystery

    Penrose College alumni art historian Christine Webb explains the depths and links that make up a splendid stained-glass window at her alma mater to her audience of feminists. The masterpiece contains a portrait of the wife of glassmaker and school founder Augustus Penrose. Christine explains that the glass art pays homage to romantic poets, pre-Raphaelite paintings, and Greek mythology, etc as a symbolic look at women through the ages. Suddenly, a close friend in the audience Juno McKay shockingly observes a bloody red light that legend insists predicts death engulfing Christine............................. . Not long afterward Christine disappears drowns in a kayak incident. Juno refuses to accept suicide induced by a drug overdose so she begins to investigate starting with the college¿s founding father. She learns that Augustus married Eugenie, but loved her younger sister mentally fragile Clare, who later suffered a mental breakdown and tried to commit suicide by drowning. Soon she traces Clare's hospitalization to an institution for the insane where she seeks to unravel the truth as to what happened to her friend and to Clare though some people wants her silent.............................. Though the tale takes time to accelerate (Christine¿s lecture reminds me of some classes I slept through at Lehman College ¿ though this makes the college atmosphere feel authentic), once Juno begins her intelligent amateur sleuthing, DROWNING TREE never looks back until the finish. Juno is a terrific protagonist starring in this academic mystery as she connects the dots past and present. Fans of cerebral mysteries will enjoy Carol Goodman¿s tale and seek other works such as THE SEDUCTION OF WATER.................................. Harriet Klausner

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted August 22, 2013


    Loved every minute of it! Really one of her best novels.

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