REVIEW: Thorn Abbey by Nancy Ohlin

thornabbeyThorn Abbey by Nancy Ohlin
Simon Pulse, 2013
[Goodreads] [Amazon]

Nothing is as it seems in this darkly romantic tale of infatuation and possession, inspired by Daphne du Maurier’s Rebecca.

Becca was the perfect girlfriend: smart, gorgeous, and loved by everyone at New England’s premier boarding school, Thorn Abbey. But Becca’s dead. And her boyfriend, Max, can’t get over his loss.

Then Tess transfers to Thorn Abbey. She’s shy, insecure, and ordinary—everything that Becca wasn’t. And despite her roommate’s warnings, she falls for brooding Max.

Now Max finally has a reason to move on. Except it won’t be easy. Because Becca may be gone, but she’s not quite ready to let him go…

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DISCLAIMER: This book is a retelling of Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier, which I have never read. As such, this review will contain only my thoughts on Thorn Abbey itself, and no comparisons to the original work will be made.

It has now been several days since I finished Thorn Abbey, and I still am not completely sure what I thought about it. There were certainly aspects of this story that I liked, and others that I did not. Having never read Rebecca (and really knowing next to nothing about the book), I had no expectations regarding the plot or characters, and likewise didn’t know anything about any aspect of the story. In some ways I feel this was a good thing, as I wasn’t making constant comparisons, but on the other hand, it would be nice to know how well she stayed faithful to the original story. I suppose I shall just have to stalk the reviews of folks who have read Rebecca, or – even better – just break down and read it myself.

What struck me immediately about Thorn Abbey was the amazingly gothic and dark atmosphere. It’s set at a contemporary boarding school (I initially thought this was a historical tale) somewhere in New England, but the weather, the buildings, the classes, everything just oozed mystery. The descriptions of the setting were one of my favorite parts of the story. Ms. Ohlin has a great talent for setting the mood. I also found the mystery itself to be first rate, and written in a way that was extremely compelling and engrossing, so much so that I pretty much finished this in one sitting. The book is infinitely readable, and definitely has an “it” factor when it comes to keeping the reader engaged.

But then there’s Tess, our main character. Unfortunately, much of what I didn’t like lies with her and her alone. I found Tess to be surprisingly stalker-like when it comes to Max, our main male character. She falls for him much too quickly and pretty much becomes consumed with thoughts of him. I found her obsession creepy and weird, and honestly didn’t like reading her inner monologues. Because of this, I had an extremely hard time connecting with her. I honestly didn’t care about her feelings and emotions at all. I likewise didn’t connect with Max. I just don’t feel like there was enough development to either of their personalities to really pull the reader in and make them care about what the characters are going through. For me, the mystery and atmosphere were what kept me reading because I just wanted to know how things would turn out. I can’t say I cared what that final climax meant for the characters themselves.

Ultimately, Thorn Abbey was a bit of a disappointment. Did I like it? Yes. Could it have been better? Definitely. Would I still recommend it? I would, simply for the mystery and atmosphere, which were seriously first-rate. Of course, that could just be because I haven’t read Rebecca, so your mileage may vary.

3stars

An e-galley was provided by the publisher via Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review.

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8 Responses to REVIEW: Thorn Abbey by Nancy Ohlin

  1. Oh, I’m sad this one wasn’t a hit with you! I’ve got a copy of it from Edelweiss… just haven’t gotten around to reading it yet. While I definitely want to, it doesn’t sound like I’ll be moving it up higher on my TBR list! Great review though! :)

  2. I haven’t read Rebecca either and probably won’t. Good, honest, review. Too bad it wasn’t far more impressive to you but I like the overall plot.

  3. I am very curious to read this retelling. Rebecca is a fantastic novel, but it always seemed to me that taken out of its context, time period, setting, etc., it would lose its sense of believability and creepiness. I am curious to see how Ohlin updated this story for a younger and more modern audience. I can see how the lack of Tess and Max’s development would be frustrating, but that does seem to be on par with the original Rebecca. Rebecca is all about Rebecca – how even after her death she’s a constant and overwhelming presence and the traditional main characters fade into the background while in her presence. In the original the protagonist doesn’t even have a name! I highly encourage you to read Rebecca, Merin. It’s not a stuffy old classic at all and it just an incredible story.

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  5. Aww I am disappointed that you didn’t like this one as I love Rebecca..hmms might check it out anyway to compare but with lowered expectations! :)

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