Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Review: Conscience Point

Summary: A talented woman becomes entranced with a mega-wealthy family in a story about a mysterious love with two faces; the battle to stay relevant in the post-literate world; a shocking betrayal that exposes the past of characters "rotten with secrets"; and, finally, the passion to reclaim old dreams. This genre-bending novel mixes heartbreak, Gothic atmospherics, and a satire of New York's high-stakes players.

Conscience Point is about Madeleine Shaye, a beautiful over-achiever with a dual career as concert pianist and TV arts correspondent; her adored college-age daughter, adopted as an infant under murky circumstances; and a blissful relationship with editor Nick Ashcroft, scion of an uber-rich family (whose sister earlier played a decisive role in Maddy's young life). Then it all unravels. Maddy loses her footing in a late-90's marketplace skewed toward youth and pop culture. Her daughter announces she's leaving college to work in Guatemala, hinting darkly at mysterious trouble. And Maddy discovers that Nick has betrayed her in a way she could never have imagined. Her tough resilience, ability to love and sacrifice while making moral choices informs the emotional center of this novel.

The intimate drama of a family shadowed by the past, Conscience Point captures the struggles of accomplished baby boomers (and NY social circle insiders) and scrambling to re-invent themselves and stay afloat in the post-literate age (says Maddy, "I won't move over till I fall over"); offers smart, enlightening observations, information and descriptions of the world of music; lampoons the elitist NY artsy community; satisfies our prurient hunger to eavesdrop on and judge the almost too decadent, consequence-free lives of the mega-rich. Set in part at Conscience Point, Nick's crumbling family estate, this genre-bending novel also draws on gothic conventions as it uncovers dark secrets while at the same time it plumbs a touchingly human nostalgia for the sort of youthful passion that is seldom equaled in later life. -- Unbridled Books

Once again I have to thank my friends at Unbridled Books for sending me a beautifully written novel. This time it was CONSCIENCE POINT by Erica Abeel. I have to admit that I probably wouldn't have picked up this novel on my own, but I'm very glad that I finally got around to reading it. This book was one that held my interest and definitely kept me guessing (and thinking) until the very end.

Reading CONSCIENCE POINT was way out of my normal confort zone, and I wasn't sure I was going to enjoy this novel. The plot sounded interesting enough, but the first few chapters were kind of difficult for me to get through. I had to re-read many of the sentences because I wasn't "getting" a lot of the author's references. Once I got past that and starting really understanding the characters, I began to appreciate the author's beautiful writing style. I'm not sure that this would be a problem for most readers -- I'm just not that familiar with the New York art and social scene.

What I enjoyed the most about this novel was the mystery aspect of it. From the start, it was apparent that there were some mysterious circumstances surrounding the parents of Maddy's adopted daughter. As the book goes on, the reader eventually learns who her mother is; however, even that doesn't even appear to be certain. I loved how this storyline had so many twists and turns. At some points in the book, I was absolutely shocked and couldn't put the book down until I felt like some of the issues were "resolved." I was definitely kept guessing right up until the end, and I continued to think about this story even after I finished the novel.

I am not familiar with any of Ms. Abeel's other novels (CONSCIENCE POINT is her fifth), but I was blown away by her amazing prose. While I wasn't that familiar with the New York art or social scenes, her descriptions were so detailed and rich that I had no problems picturing them. From the French countryside, to the family estate, to the concert piano scenes, Ms. Abeel made all of them come to life in this novel. I loved how her writing was so smart and funny. Her observations about New York society life were often times hilarious.

I especially appreciated how the author was able to develop the characters so well. Even if I didn't really like some of the characters, I still understood them and the reasons behind their actions. Many of the characters in this novel are extremely memorable and will stay with the reader for quite awhile. I also liked how Ms. Abeel presented this story and thought it was extremely effective. This novel is very well-told and unfolds perfectly as the narrative goes back and forth between the past and present day.

This book has a little something for everyone -- romance, mystery, intrigue, secrets, high society, and even dreams; and as a result, I think it would make for a wonderful book club selection. There is just so much to talk about this novel, and there might even be some issues that will cause member to disagree (not in a bad way, but in a "expand your horizons" kind of way.) After reading this novel, with all of its crazy twists and turns, and with all the heartache and sadness, I think what I was most left with was the realization that it's never to late to realize your dreams.


Serena said...

I just got this one in the mail through library thing.

Lisa said...

This sounds like a perfect read for me! I'll have to add it to my holiday wish list! Terrific review!

S. Krishna said...

Thanks for the great review - this book sounds great!

Anna said...

Great review! I received this recently through Library Thing, and I can't wait to read it!

Diary of an Eccentric