Monday, October 08, 2007

Mother Talk Review: The Reincarnationist, M.J. Rose

The Reincarnationist, M. J. Rose
MIRA Books
Hardcover, $24.95 U.S./ 29.95 Canada, 464 pages
ISBN: 13: 978-0-7783-2420-1
ISBN: 10: 0-7783-2420-6

Reincarnation has always fascinated me, as well as anything having to do with the occult and metaphysical matters, since I was young. It's been a natural interest: I would check out every single book from the library on the subject and devour it, usually, in one sitting. It remains, to this day, an interest that holds strong.
So, when I heard The Reincarnationist was to be on the Mother-Talk Bookshelf, I immediately signed up.

This is Rose's ninth published book, and one she has worked on the longest. In The Reincarnationist, she fearlessly probes through the depths of reincarnation; always questioning the possibility: does such a thing exist? The premise of the book seems promising, if a bit worn:

Photojournalist Josh Ryder ( the main character) is suddenly having flashbacks to pre-Christian Rome after an accident as the high priest Julius. Josh gets involved with the Phoenix Foundation shortly after-a center that researches and documents reincarnation and past life experiences, and tries to makes sense of these ‘lurches’; He then begins to also have flashbacks to Victorian England as Percy Talmage-son of the founder of the Phoenix Foundation. It all interconnects in the present by the excavation of an ancient tomb in Rome, and the discovery of a well-preserved 1600 year old woman who holds "The Memory Stones"- ancient artifacts that are supposed to incite past life regressions- pulling in a few other important characters. Back and forth through the centuries we travel with Josh, in search of answers from a past that needs to be settled here in the present.

Fifteen pages into it and I’m thinking the writing itself isn’t very original, or exciting, even cliché in some parts-
“…the muscles in his thighs and calves screamed, and every breath irritated his lungs so harshly, he wanted to cry out.” (p.15)
Couldn’t the muscles do something other than ‘scream’? Something, they’ve no doubt, done a hundred times before? Couldn’t his breath do something other than ‘irritate’ his lungs?

“Grief ripped through him like a knife slitting open his chest….”
How many times has grief ripped through one like a knife?

The dialogue is really quite bland, and the story formulaic and somewhat predictable. "She shook violently" and "The mountainous waves beat against the ship endlessly" seemed to have been in a hundred different books, some that I have read recently.

When I read a fictional book, the language of the story really has to stand out for me to enjoy it as well as a story line that flows gracefully and coherently; making me scream out: OH! YES! at some word or phrase, wishing I had written such a thing. All the while I was reading this, I kept thinking of two books: The English Patient, by Michael Ondaatje and The Witching Hour, by Anne Rice.

I thought of The English Patient, simply because it was written so astoundingly well; it made me scream out more than once in pure appreciation and love of language, whereas The Reincarnationist just didn't.

I couldn’t help but feel as if I was reading a distant cousin, in plot, of The Witching Hour with The Reincarnationist. Rose does admit being influenced by early Anne Rice novels. Perhaps a little too much….There were actually several things that struck me as quite 'Witchy' : the racing back and forth through the centuries concept (done very well in The Witching Hour, I might add), The Phoenix Foundation reminded me too much of the Talamasca -"We watch and we are always here"- in various Anne Rice novels. It is a fictional order set up to watch over and record the paranormal. Also, the name Beryl Talmage, head of the Phoenix Foundation, too closely resembled that of Talamasca for me to take it as something original.

What sort of threw me was when the Rome story (Julius and Sabina) just kind of dropped off in the middle of the book, only to pick up again at the very end of the book. I know there wasn’t much left to tell at that point, but it seems as if it suddenly switched to another century and a different story (Percy, Etc) without any sort of transition, smooth or otherwise. Also, the fact that Josh would have flashbacks both to Rome and England just didn’t flow for me. Perhaps the stories will pick up in the next book more harmoniously?

It seems a great deal of research has gone into this book, thus making the stories themselves quite believable. At the back of the book, there is an extended 'Suggested Reading List' that I intend to hunt out as soon as possible. The concept of the memory stones was quite intriguing. If they had actually existed, that would be phenomenal. What a great idea! Also, the dust jacket struck me as very visually appealing. I would have bought it just for the cover and the title.

This just didn’t get me going as I thought it would. I think I may have to re-read The Witching Hour....

For more information on this book, please visit: Mother-Talk for the story behind the book, Author's Website and Blog. Also, check out a podcast interview featuring M. J. Rose here. As always, check in with Mother-Talk throughout the entire month of October (and perhaps into November!) for additional reviews. This is a big one! No less than 50 bloggers will be participating in this review!

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1 comment:

  1. I agree with them dropping the storyline..I also wondered if Julius had any true feelings for her. It seemed like only lust to me for the most part...I wonder if this was intentional.