The Debutante by Kathleen Tessaro

A quick rundown… Two stories running together: the story of Cate in the present, cataloguing the items of a deceased estate, and the Blythe sisters in the 1930s. Can Cate solve the mystery of the missing sister?

Strengths: Interesting idea for a story, some interesting glimpses into fashion history.

Weaknesses: Dreary, conjures up bleak images and not as well executed as it could have been.

Why I read it: On my wish list and saw it at the $5 bookstore

Pages: 384

Published: 2010

Publisher: Harper

Setting: England

Rating: 6 out of 10

If you liked this, try: The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield or any Kate Morton novel

This was another $5 bookshop buy. Would it be too harsh to say I’m glad I only spent $5 on it?

This book seemed like it had so much going for it. The plot, while not 100% original, could be so good! Let me just summarise it quickly for you: Cate, troubled by the ending of a previous romance, goes to work for her aunt’s auction business. There, she meets Jack, who is moody with secrets of his own. As they catalogue Endsleigh, the estate of one of the famed Blythe sisters, sexual tension flares. Cate becomes caught up in the mystery of what happened to the younger Blythe sister. Will she realise Jack’s interest and solve the mystery? There are many books that follow this kind of plot – Kate Morton has written some very good (okay, and one not so good) books about the modern and historic, involving big houses and decades old mysteries. Unfortunately, this one is not so good.

Why do I think this? The prose is dreary. I had to force myself to continue to read this, setting myself a page target each day (all for the benefit of you, dear reader – your life is too short for bad books!) The tension between Cate and Jack felt forced and clichéd – like the characters themselves were begrudgingly acting out the part for the sake of the reader. The prose really didn’t evoke an atmosphere either – it felt stilted and restrained. Cate’s love affair lacked love, regret and the anger of betrayal – it really felt like she was just going through the motions. No passion at all!

The mystery was quite interesting though and although the ‘discovery’ is somewhat clichéd (I won’t spoil it for you if you intend to read the book), at least it is solved. The way that Cate got interested in Baby Blythe’s disappearance through a hidden shoebox of memorabilia was unique and one of the more interesting parts of the book to me. The way the ‘historic’ side of the plot was revealed through letters mainly between the Blythe sisters was interesting too, but at times it left more questions than answers for me.

I cared about this book enough to finish, but I’m sorry, not enough to recommend it. It may be an okay beach or plane read at a pinch.


4 thoughts on “The Debutante by Kathleen Tessaro

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  1. I expected to like this one much more than I actually did, too. The plot had so much promise! But I agree: wasn’t as well executed as it could have been.

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