The Beloveds by Maureen Lindley
Published by Gallery Books, scheduled for April 2018
Genre: Contemporary, Adult
Well, y’all. The Beloveds has me stumped. I wanted to love it, I should have loved it (female psychopathic narrator? Come on). I loved some parts and really, really didn’t love others. So! I haven’t done a pro/con list in some time, here we go.
An exploration of domestic derangement, as sinister as Daphne Du Maurier’s classic Rebecca, that plumbs the depths of sibling rivalry with wit and menace.
Oh, to be a Beloved—one of those lucky people for whom nothing ever goes wrong. Everything falls into their laps without effort: happiness, beauty, good fortune, allure.
Betty Stash is not a Beloved—but her little sister, the delightful Gloria, is. She’s the one with the golden curls and sunny disposition and captivating smile, the one whose best friend used to be Betty’s, the one whose husband should have been Betty’s. And then, to everyone’s surprise, Gloria inherits the family manse—a vast, gorgeous pile of ancient stone, imposing timbers, and lush gardens—that was never meant to be hers.
Losing what Betty considers her rightful inheritance is the final indignity. As she single-mindedly pursues her plan to see the estate returned to her in all its glory, her determined and increasingly unhinged behavior—aided by poisonous mushrooms, talking walls, and a phantom dog—escalates to the point of no return. The Beloveds will have you wondering if there’s a length to which an envious sister won’t go.
I have to say I was drawn in by The Beloveds immediately. Sister stories of all kinds intrigue me, (is there a more complex relationship dynamic than that of one between sisters?) and the book opens immediately with Elizabeth confessing that she has hated her sister from childhood on. That, to me, is compelling. The writing feels almost antiquated, but not in an unpleasant way. I could easily see it happening any time within the last fifty years, which makes the novel feel timeless. It is clever, very witty and sharp. The writing is probably what kept me intrigued through my cons.
I am SO here for female psychopathic narrators. With men there seems to always be a sexual element to insanity that I simply cannot get behind. Elizabeth is brilliant, maniacal, manipulative, and completely unaware of how crazy she is. I adore it. I adore her. I can’t help it. She’s COMPLETELY unlikable, so don’t confuse my meaning, but I cannot help rooting for her even when she’s planning murders because she is so damn believable. THAT’S what I need from a narrator. They can be a heinous individual, but I need to believe in their causes and somehow root for them. And this accomplishes that for me. If you need a narrator you can love, Elizabeth is not for you. But I bet she’ll keep your interest.
The Art Gallery
(I almost wrote “Art Dealership”? It’s eleven at night. I’m tired.) For a portion of the book, Elizabeth works at an art gallery with her husband. The way she speaks about art is absolutely gorgeous. I’m a painter and art history nerd, so I may be partial. But this was also part of what makes Elizabeth’s love for her childhood home so believable. She doesn’t love people, doesn’t appreciate them. She loves and appreciates beauty, and it’s so apparent in how she speaks about art.
Pipits! The House, called Pipits, is something really interesting. Elizabeth speaks about Pipits like it’s a lover. Like she’s in love. That sounds crazy but it works for her. The house speaks to her, she talks often about its voice. The house agrees with her, is occasionally disappointed in her. Pipits has personality.
About 100 pages in, things nearly come to a halt. From this point, all the way to the end, for me, the book crawls and drags. Many, many pages of “I hate them, they’re in my house, I should be in my house, I must get them out of my house,” to then get to a couple pages of action, and back to the inner monologue. Again, I love the writing. I find Elizabeth’s inner monologue fascinating. Absolutely not for this much of the story, though. The Beloveds takes place over many years, and boy does it feel like it. “Angry Woman Wants Her House” is a good enough premise, but certainly not enough plot. It was all I could do to keep from skimming after a certain point.
The peripheral characters have very little life or personality. I am willing to give (only slight) allowances on this, and here’s why. Elizabeth is clearly psychotic. She has no regard for a single other human being. So, I can see how, through her eyes, other characters could be flat. However, I really needed more. Henry, Elizabeth’s brother in law, has at least some dimension. He has anger, he has emotions, he has a hobby. Gloria really has none of this. She’s a complete dud. She’s boring, simple, lacks any discernible personality. For me, it would have been better had Gloria been an actual person, rather than a symbol of everything Elizabeth has wanted but not obtained.
The Total Lack of Closure
Basically, Elizabeth spends a good portion working on one plan to get what she wants. Then a little bit planning her next scheme. Then? Nothing. I mean. Actually nothing. She messes with her neighbors, spends more time angry. I cannot stress this enough: nothing else happens. There’s no real ending, no closure, no sense of anything having really taken place. This is just incredibly upsetting for me, and ultimately my least favorite part of a novel that showed promise.
Each of these gorgeous photos links to the IG post, show these some love!
*I don’t own any of the photos used for aesthetics in this post. Each photo links to where I found it!*