12 Jun 2010


Another contender for the Orange Prize.


Twenty-year-old Tassie Keltjin yearns to escape her provincial home. She moves to the college town of Troy to start university and takes a job as a part-time nanny to a glamorous couple. Tassie is drawn into their life and that of their newly adopted toddler. As the household reveals its complications, Tassie is forced out of her naivety, and the past and the future burst forth in dramatic and shocking ways.

....... From the outer back cover.

FIRST SENTENCE: The cold came late that fall and the songbirds were caught off guard.

MEMORABLE MOMENT: I had never feared insomnia before - like prison, wouldn't it just give you more time to read?

Hmm, not too sure all the blurb on the back cover is a true representation of the book as a whole.

I'm finding this very difficult to review this novel as I'm still trying to decide just what it was actually about and whether or not I enjoyed it or not.

The story of a white American couple who adopt (to be honest I'm not sure that the actually do such is my confusion with certain aspects of the plot) a toddler of African-American parentage - A Gate At The Stairs was one of those novels where there is lots of talk, much of it based around race and what it is to be seen to be different, and yet very little actually happening leaving me with the impression that the author was trying to get a message across even if it was at the expense of everything else the novel may have had to offer.

A bit 'preachy' in places and at times challenging and uncomfortable to read. I found some of the scenes between Sarah and Edward (the 'glamorous' couple) particularly hard-going as I was left feeling as if I were listening in on a private conversation not meant for my hearing.

Then there was toddler Emmie who I just couldn't take to despite feeling some empathy for her less than certain start in life. I think the problem here was that the author seemed to know little about two-year-olds and therefore the whole character was unconvincing and just didn't work.

A book I will certainly re-read at some point if only to discover if I get anything more from it on the second reading.

A Gate At The Stairs was purchased from Book People.



Betty Manousos:cutand-dry.blogspot.com said...

I love that sentence. I've never feared insomnia either.
A must read.
Thanks, Tracy.
Happy weekend!
B xx

Betty Manousos:cutand-dry.blogspot.com said...

Glad that your hubby dearest is feeling well!!
B xx

Tracie said...

Sounds like I'll pass on this one.

I'm glad your husband is home and doing better!

Jessica said...

I think I'll pass this one too, I also got Black Water Rising through the post today which Im about to start so it'll be interesting to see if I agree with your thoughts!

Glad your husbands home.

Oddyoddyo13 said...

Hmm...that doesn't sound extremely promising, if anything even if you can't make sense of the plot.

How's your hubby doing now? Is he glad to be home?

Good luck to you both!

Dorte H said...

How ambitious of you to plan to reread it. I only reread books I really love! (Unless it is for work - I have had to read a handful of really uninteresting articles today for an exam).

Pam said...

Thanks for the review. This sounds like on I'll have to skip. How is hubby feeling?

Traci said...

First, yay for hubby being home -- even if he is being a classic "man" and ignoring your attempts to keep him well.

Interesting review. I love the line about insomnia but I'm not sure that this book would be one for me. Especially when I consider your feelings on the two year old and the preachiness. Thanks for sharing our thoughts.

Kelly said...

You're right...what you describe as the plot is NOT what I would expect from the back cover blurb.

I'm with Dorte...I admire your desire to read it again considering how you felt after the first read through. There are too many books I haven't read for me to want to reread any!

Heather said...

I have to agree with your comments. Will link to your post.

Arti said...

Nice review..Loved the opening line!
Have a wonderful sunday :)

Jenners said...

I love the honesty of your reviews! Thanks for always telling it like you saw it.

Sheila (Bookjourney) said...

Love the cover and the title!