Share for friends:

Dragonwyck (2005)

Dragonwyck (2005)

Book Info

3.73 of 5 Votes: 4
Your rating
1556525818 (ISBN13: 9781556525810)
chicago review press

About book Dragonwyck (2005)

Dragonwyck is a gothic romance in the vein of Jane Eyre, albeit set in America just before the Civil War. Nicholas Van Ryn is this novel's Rochester. A patroon in the dying days of feudal society, he clings to the trappings of fiefdom even when it becomes increasingly obvious that it is all going to end soon. He is also handsome, brooding, mysterious, and has a fat wife (Johanna) he doesn't care for to boot. So it's no wonder that his poor cousin Miranda falls hard for him when she comes to live with the Van Ryns, even though she's nothing more than a glorified servant. Johanna dies and Nicholas wastes no time in winning Miranda's hand. He doesn't even have to exert himself, she's practically throwing herself at his feet. Everyone else has misgivings, but Miranda is blind to his faults, even when one of his fault leads to a poor tenant's death. Needless to say, a leopard doesn't change its spots, just because, probably especially because, it has now married a beautiful woman with no will power and a talent for making up agreeable fantasies about said leopard's spotty ways.And this is where Dragonwyck becomes better than normal gothic romances (though Jane Eyre is one of my favorite books ever). Miranda is a fool and is so blinded by wealth and the romance of the manor and her own vanity that she cannot or will not see the fear Nicholas inspires in everyone. Nicholas is tall, dark and handsome, but is a sociopath who will abuse his wife on her wedding night, humiliate and isolate her. There is a paper thin hero who is supposed to save the day, but gets to live because of a lucky co-incidence. He also makes the almost fatal mistake of letting Miranda go off on her own, when her husband just tried to kill him and he made only a half hearted attempt to bind the guy. Suffice to say that Nicholas wasn't in his best mood. Miranda only gets free of Nicholas because Seton changes his spots at the last minute. Dragonwyck is also worse than normal gothic romances, because Miranda is never someone you root for, and Nicholas is never charming. My copy had an afterword written by Philippa Gregory, where she tries to make the case that the way the book is written, the readers are as repulsed by Johanna as Nicholas and Miranda are and cheer when Johanna dies and Miranda and Nicholas get married. After I read that, I wondered if Gregory and I read the same book. At no point did I feel that Nicholas was anything less than the asshole he was, and at no point did I think that Miranda was anything but a willfully blind and greedy child. Johanna aroused nothing but sympathy in me, because how else was she supposed to treat a vapid airhead trying to steal her husband under her nose? That she's fond of food and consequently is fat is probably only enough to repulse the most shallow of people. Miranda does turn around much later, after a number of years of subjugation under Nicholas. But even when her eyes are fully opened, she still lacks any insight into Nicholas' psyche. Her turning into a democrat and dividing up the estate between tenants came out of nowhere. She never stood up to her husband regarding the tenants, and we don't get any mental chatter from her about that either. I was also bothered by the number of authors that are trotted out, Fenimore Cooper, Herman Melville, Edgar Allen Poe; for no reason whatsoever. The book would not have been any different had these authors not been characters. As it is, it feels an awful lot like name dropping. Dragonwyck ultimately evens out in terms of quality, but I still think of it as a disappointing book.

At first, Dragonwyck reminded me of Mansfield Park: the young girl summoned to live with her aristocratic relations--although in this case, it's American rather than English aristocracy--who trades poverty for their luxurious lifestyle. But that resemblance was shattered as soon as Nicholas Van Ryn appeared. He is no Sir Thomas, and certainly no Edmund Bertram. Nicholas is more like Maxim de Winter: glamorous, unapproachable, even unfathomable to Miranda. And when Miranda is introduced to Dragonwyck and the life the Van Ryn's lead, the reader is also introduced to a feudal system that seems unlikely in American history. Nicholas Van Ryn presides over his tenants like a European aristocrat, and the tenants are expected to appear before him twice a year to pay rent for the farms their families have been working for generations. That the system is crumbling around him is an example of the pressure Van Ryn feels to maintain his (to him) rightful place in the world. And really, Dragonwyck is more about him than any other character. Miranda is the heroine of the story, but Nicholas Van Ryn is the hub around which the story orbits. His character is examined most--usually through Miranda's eyes--but also through his own, albeit self-deluding, thoughts and emotions. It is inevitable, of course, that Miranda will fall in love with Nicholas, her glamorous, handsome, rich, all-powerful relative, and that the reader will root for them to get together (especially after we encounter Nicholas' wife Johanna). But what is less understandable is why Nicholas would fall in love with Miranda--the naive, young farm girl who doesn't begin to understand him. Eventually, of course, we realize the truth about Nicholas, their relationship and, as the author puts it, "what incalculable harm to many innocent people could be done by one supreme egotist"--a theme that is illustrated by the river boat races that bracket Miranda's arrival and departure from Dragonwyck. Ultimately, the book was not at all what I expected, and the author broke a lot of rules that romance novelists follow these days, but I enjoyed reading it. I liked the character growth that Miranda shows and I was so impressed with the author's scholarship. She managed to weave in several historical events that I was not familiar with and presented a picture of mid-nineteenth century life that was both believable and surprising. An excellent read.t

Do You like book Dragonwyck (2005)?

I liked this book as it was quite gothic in its environment. The characters were typical, the beautiful heroine, the dark mysterious man, and the good looking fine charactered other "man in my life" figure. Taking place along the area of the Hudson River and NYC, the book evoked a setting that was both familiar and beautiful.The rich of Dutch New York are explored with all their wealth, society, and social strata. Into that setting comes the beautiful Miranda, distant cousin to Nicholas a wealthy patroon who while moody, is of course handsome and debonaire. The problem is that he is married but that problem is done away with when his wife dies mysteriously and Nicholas declares that within a year Miranda will be his wife. The little fairy tale starts to take a sinister trek almost immediately as one discovers there is something just not right with Nicholas. The story goes through times of mild happiness and bitter tragedy as all good gothic novels do.All in all, this was a nice book to while away some time with. It was very evocative of Katherine in its writing style. Ms Seton again mixed a little bit of history with a love story which always seems to appeal to many. I know it often does to me.

This is a very odd book. It is interesting, and I couldn't put it down while reading it, but now that I have finished, I have no inclination to read it again, and indeed, feel slightly embarrassed that I read it at all. It feels so teenager-ish and melodramatic, plus the title makes it sound like some crazy science-fiction book.It is a book in the same vein as Daphne Du Maurier's Rebecca, though not quite as richly written. A young, simple, poor girl falls in love with a handsome, rich, mysterious man. This, however, takes place in the 19th century Hudson River valley. This adds a bit of historical interest, because it is at this time that the 'patroon' system of this area breaks down. It was similar to the old medieval feudal society--one very rich man owns thousands of acres of land, which is then rented to the actual farmers who live on it.It is a dark book, with some indications of sexual and other abuse. But it is also the story of how a spoiled, slightly arrogant young woman grows up and becomes a better woman. It also shows how a person can try to be redeemed.

Dragonwyck is a difficult book to LIKE. And yet its very good. I'm in a quandry...5 star writing skills3 star enjoymentRounded off to 4 starsIn a nutshell, a country girl has high aspirations and jumps at the chance to leave the farm for an extended visit at her cousin Nicholas' vast estate. (I thought Miranda was much like Hettie from Adam Bede ) Of course, she doesn't know her cousin Nicholas at all; nor does she understand why his corpulent wife, Johanna would rather bury herself in teacakes and pastries than cross him. All she sees is his godlike attributes, magnetism and charm. So when Nicholas' wife, Johanna suddenly dies from 'acute gastritis', Miranda slides right into his arms. And wakes up in a nightmare...Its important to understand from the get go that Nicholas is not the hero. He is a sociopath/ egomaniac. ( Think Wolf Larsen, Captain Ahab or even Ted Bundy). So he's not swoonworthy; however, he IS one of the main characters so you see a lot of him. And I was ready to get shed of him much sooner than was the case! But you know, that in itself was skilful writing because the reader could genuinely enter into the heroine's world and feel what she felt.For those of us who have a hard time understanding why someone stays in an abusive relationship instead of 'just leaving ', this book opens our eyes to what manipulation really is. How background plays a part (in both the victim and the abuser), how an abusive person 'recognizes ' their next victim, and how the web is spun so expertly that the victim hardly knows they're caught until theyre stunned powerless to fight...And I suppose its knowing that there's really people like this that takes it out of the realm of what I would term enjoyable "escapism fiction".CONTENT :SEX : None shown to reader explicitly but marital rape is obviously an issue on several occasions.VIOLENCE: domestic violence shown mostly in the form of mental intimidation and physical domination.PROFANITY : Very mildPARANORMAL ELEMENTS : laughing and piano playing is heard by two characters on different occasions when no one else heard it. Whether it was mental illness or ghosts is not clarified.MY RATING : Strong PG or mild PG-13

download or read online

Read Online

Write Review

(Review will shown on site after approval)

Other books by author Philippa Gregory

Other books in category Paranormal Fantasy