Friday, August 31, 2012

The Glenwood Treasure by Kim Moritsugu

I have found that sometimes authors set their stories in Toronto but use a fictional neighbourhood (as for example Phyllis Brett Young did in The Torontonians), which can work very well, especially when it is surrounded by real Toronto landmarks and particularly that real Toronto vibe.

Unfortunately this novel, The Glenwood Treasure, did not really achieve this effect. The story is set in the fictional neighbourhood of Rose Park, an upscale east-end suburb-type area most reminiscent of Rosedale. Aside from the occasional mention of running errands "downtown", the rest of Toronto is never mentioned, and thus the feel of the city is left to be reflected in the author's depiction of Rose Park. Now, I haven't spent a lot of time in Rosedale or any of the affluent mini-suburbs that surround the downtown, so perhaps her depiction was entirely accurate, but it did not leave me with a feeling that this story took place in Toronto. It could have been anywhere, and actually probably should have been set in a smaller city or town; characters are constantly running into each other in this universe.

That was probably my biggest beef with this book, but I had others; it was not my favourite by any stretch. The story follows Blithe Morrison, a Rose Park-raised woman who has moved to California, and at the start of the novel has just been divorced and is coming back home. She moves into her parents' coach house for the summer and has plans to just putter around, but then a neighbour enlists her to help with research on a book about Rose Park, and Blithe starts to find a renewed interest in the Glenwood treasure - a legendary treasure buried over a century ago in Rose Park.

Blithe is surrounded by people from her old life - apparently she's the only person who ever left Rose Park - including her fussy, upper-class parents; Patrick the baker and love interest; Hannah, her childhood best friend; and eventually Noel, her brother, who also left Rose Park but comes back to torment her. The story is really about Blithe's relationship with Noel, her struggle with his effortless life and casual cruelty.

This is a strange novel. In some parts it seems like it is trying to be young adult fiction, but then the themes and content just seem a bit too explicit, or alternately too boring, for young adults. However it is a quick and simple read, and it's about buried treasure. So it's hard to say.

I thought it was well written in general, and it held my interest. However, there were a couple issues I had with it. First, I didn't find the protagonist very sympathetic; I found the main romantic plot to be almost completely lacking in chemistry; I thought the precocious eleven-year-old, Alexandra, to be sadly underused, particularly during the Nancy Drew-style treasure hunting; and I have to say, it is hard to care if your protagonist finds a half million dollar treasure when she seems to be doing ok, money-wise. Like really, I just didn't care whether or not she found it. Luckily that was not the main theme of the novel, but it really would have been harder to put down if she actually needed the money.

That was mainly what I found about this book: it was a quick and interesting read, but there was nothing that really held me to it or compelled me to keep picking it up. I would try Moritsugu again but I wouldn't recommend this particular novel.

Two CN Towers out of five

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