Friday 14 July 2017

Book Review: The Beguiled by Thomas Cullinan

Title: The Beguiled
Author: Thomas Cullinan
Publisher: Penguin
Publication Date: 13 June 2017 (1966)
Pages: 379
Format: eBook - PDF
Genre: Historical Fiction/Gothic
Source: ARC via NetGalley

Wounded and near death, a young Union Army corporal is found in the woods of Virginia during the height of the Civil War and brought to the nearby Miss Martha Farnsworth Seminary for Young Ladies. Almost immediately he sets about beguiling the three women and five teenage girls stranded in this outpost of Southern gentility, eliciting their love and fear, pity and infatuation, and pitting them against one another in a bid for his freedom. But as the women are revealed for what they really are, a sense of ominous foreboding closes in on the soldier, and the question becomes: Just who is the beguiled? (Goodreads Synopsis)

I am keen to see this film soon and so when I came across the book listed on NetGalley, I requested a review copy straightaway. I wasn't disappointed. This is a--dare I say it--beguiling tale that creeps up on you. I love the multiple (and unreliable) narrations that constantly make you question who is telling the truth and what is really going on in that house. The first person narratives also contribute to the sense of claustrophobia that pervades the story. We really get deep into each character's head without ever knowing for certain if their slant on events is accurate, or innocent. The Gothic overtones blend seamlessly with the drama, and by the end you really don't know what to think, unable to tell whether the good triumphed or if it was all a facade. I am interested to see how this will work in the film version, especially with Johnny cast a lot older than he is portrayed in the book. I guess I'll find out soon.

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