It’s only an ordinary English farmhouse, an old one that is “large and square and solid, set back some distance from the road with a few unkempt trees dotted around for privacy,” but Julia Beckett, the main character of Susanna Kearsley’s Mariana, is drawn to it. It’s her house, as she declares when she is only five-years-old.
She buys the house twenty-five years later. Soon after moving in, she realizes that her connection to the home predates her lifetime. On the property, she finds herself transported to the seventeenth century and transformed into an earlier version of herself: a young woman named Mariana, a former occupant of the home.
“We were all somebody, once,” a “supernaturally wise” woman, one of the few who has any inkling of what’s going on, tells her.
It’s a confusing time for Julia, complicated by her attraction to a man she hopes is the reincarnation of Richard, Mariana’s former lover. The contemporary guy is affable, educated, wealthy, and handsome, but is he the one?
Nope. That much becomes clear pretty early on, but alternative contenders for the reincarnated beau are few and far between.
The true soulmate’s identity bewildered me as much as it ultimately bewildered Julia. I thought he was adorable, but not necessarily “the one” for her (for me, on the other hand… 😉 )
Just to make sure I didn’t miss something, I re-read every single mention of the guy who ended up being the soulmate (I love being able to search e-books!). He’s dreamy, but definitely not “the one.”
Then, turning to the Internet, I found that I wasn’t the only one confused by the match.
Melanie of The Indextrious Reader (one of my favorite book blogs) said way back in 2007:
“In order to promote the red herring, Kearsley does not give enough spark to the relationship between Julia and the real reincarnation of 1665’s Richard; at the conclusion, it seems to come out of nowhere, and simply because he identifies himself as ‘Richard’ she swoons.”
And a reviewer on Amazon wrote:
“As far as the storyline goes, the overriding theme is ‘The soul sees what truly matters.’ But it’s almost as if Julia’s soul was forever blind and needed to be clubbed with the truth in the last 5 paragraphs of the book.”
Yeah, the soulmate is more like Julia’s brother than her eternal love.
People often complain about an ending being too obvious, but there’s also such a thing as being too subtle.
*Mariana was originally published in the mid-1990s. The 20th Century portions of the novel feel contemporary, even without any references to the Internet or cell phones. I’ve focused on a perplexing aspect of this book here, but I actually enjoyed the story overall for its atmosphere and characters.
**Image: Mariana‘s cover & an excerpt from the OED.