Pub Writes

About the publishing Industry, editorials, and reviews

The Drowning House by Elizabeth Black

Posted by Caitie F on January 18, 2013

Title: The Drowning House
Author: Elizabeth Black
Hardcover: 288 pages
Pub Date: Jan 15, 2012
Publisher: Nan A. Talese (Knopf Doubleday)
Rating: ++

Summary from goodreads:

Photographer Clare Porterfield’s once-happy marriage is coming apart, unraveling under the strain of a family tragedy. When she receives an invitation to direct an exhibition in her hometown of Galveston, Texas, she jumps at the chance to escape her grief and reconnect with the island she hasn’t seen for ten years. There Clare will have the time and space to search for answers about her troubled past and her family’s complicated relationship with the wealthy and influential Carraday family.

Soon she finds herself drawn into a century-old mystery involving Stella Carraday. Local legend has it that Stella drowned in her family’s house during the Hurricane of 1900, hung by her long hair from the drawing room chandelier. Could Stella have been saved? What is the true nature of Clare’s family’s involvement? The questions grow like the wildflower vines that climb up the walls and fences of the island. And the closer Clare gets to the answers, the darker and more disturbing the truth becomes.


When I heard this book had an old mystery mixed with a contemporary story, I was really excited to read it. I love reading great debuts and this sounded like just the thing. Unfortunately, it was not the kind of book I like.

What I did like was the rich setting of the island. The historical areas were richly described I was lost in the setting. I also though Elizabeth Black is a very good writer. There were some beautiful passages about life and family that were insightful and pertinent to the story. That was what kept me interested and reading, even if the story wasn’t great.

My issue with the story is that I couldn’t make myself care about Clare. Sometimes, you can really relate to a character. Sometimes, even if you can’t relate to them, you can still care about them and feel for them. I had no connection with Clare. I felt like she was often rude, blamed others for her problems, and was incredibly immature for someone in her thirties. She was not a character I could like or even care about. She was also obsessed with the past in a way that made her so disconnected with how things and people change that I just wanted to jump into the book and yell at her. She saw everything through the eyes she had when she was 14.

I also found her mother irritating, but at least I could understand where she was coming from and felt bad for her. She wasn’t always the best mother or women but she did what she thought was best. I cannot forgive her for her mistakes completely and think she was the kind of exaggerated character that took everything to far, but she was at least interesting.

The other issue was the mysteries within the overall story. I figured out all of them within 20-30 pages of them being introduced. This probably added to my irritation with Clare because everything was right in front of her, but she couldn’t be bothered to actually think about anything on her own.

This book wasn’t for me, but I could see women who can connect with Clare, her mother, or her sister enjoying it more than I did. If anything, I liked her older sister much more even though she was not a major player in the book!

Did you read the book? What did you think? Let me know in the comments!


One Response to “The Drowning House by Elizabeth Black”

  1. Sorry this was a stinker for you.

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