Top critical review
Two reviews in one
17 December 2014
Two reviews at once. Not normal but I find it difficult to understand how an author can write in two such different ways. I purchased Murder at Sissingham Hall and The Imbroglio at the Villa Pozzi at the same time being unfamiliar with Clara Benson's work. Fortunately? Unfortunately? - I read Sissingham Hall first. I almost didn't bother to read Villa Pozzi as Sissingham Hall was a very unsatisfactory read on two accounts. Firstly the plot was not very well developed and the result was obvious fairly early on. Writing this type of novel must be difficult and I don't condemn an author entirely for having the occasional book that slips a little behind others, but my second and main issue was with the style of writing.
It purported to be written by a male. I found the language, attitudes and way of thinking so feminine that almost immediately I went back to the first pages to make sure I hadn't missed something and the first person writing was actually a female. Then I decided that Clara Benson must be in her teens or early 20s to have such unsatisfactory character development. I almost stopped reading after a few chapters but decided to continue, it gave me something to complain about throughout the rest of the book.
I determined not to waste my money on any further books by Clara Benson,however, as I had paid for it I started to read Villa Pozzi. What a difference! Right from the start I was unsettled by the hero in Sissingham Hall being a male. The writing, thoughts, approach and everything about the character made me think that it was a first effort by a very young female. 'He' irritated me so much it was hard to concentrate on the story.
As I said, I determined not to read any more of Clare Benson's books, but because I had already paid for two at once I dipped into Imbroglio at Villa Pozzi in a mood of self flagellation. What a difference. Right from the start I enjoyed it. The characters were believable, the story flowed and I like it so much I will now purchase some more of her books.
At least I have taught myself that reading one book by an author is not enough to decide to make them a favourite or to avoid them for ever more. Any author who has successfully published a number of books deserves more than one chance before judging their work either way. My review is that The murder at Sissingham Hall did not appeal and was not of a high standard, but if you also found it unappealing I suggest you try another title before giving up.