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The Curse of Sara Douroux by C A Wittman - Review

Sunday, April 7, 2019

I got this book on Netgalley, I think I was pre-approved for it, so thank you to the publisher for that. I was granted access in exchange for a review but was not otherwise compensated for this post. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

I don't really know where to start with this book. I didn't love it, but I did like elements of it. Let me start with the premise. Sara is in her sophomore year of high school on the Hawaiian island of Maui, in 1985. She lives with her elderly parents, Louis and Annette, who keep to themselves and don't let her out much. She is adopted; she is mixed race and her parents are white. At school she doesn't have many friends, but Jenny, a newcomer to Hawaii, tries to be friendly. Jenny is being bullied by Sunami, whose family lives in the valley, some of whom used to live in the house that Jenny now lives in.

One day Sara is told that her cousins are coming to stay. She has never met them before, and when they arrive she's not introduced to them by name. They don't speak. They seem ill; they're very pale and don't eat. Sara's parents seem terrified of them, and are keeping secrets from her about where the cousins have come from.

Meanwhile, Jenny sees a white woman with long hair outside her bedroom window at night, and Sunami's little cousin Mele has seen the same woman. Jenny and Sunami have to work together to try to work out what's happening.

So far, so good. I liked the beginning of the book and found it genuinely creepy when the cousins turned up. I'm not good with horror things, but reading it is different to seeing it on screen and I can cope with it more. But it is still really well written. For about the first 40 percent of the book.

Then I felt it lost its way a lot. It didn't feel as thoroughly edited as the first hald. There were soooo many characters that it was hard to keep track, and so many subplots that I lost thread of them all. At one point characters called Angela, Annette, and Analise were all talking, and with similar names it was hard to keep them straight. There's a subplot about a person called River that just fizzles out, and I felt like the ending was just baffling - it builds and builds but there's no crescendo and not much resolution. We didn't see what happened afterwards to two main characters. There's a mythology that is incomplete and inconsistent which just makes it frustrating for a reader, and there were other inconsistencies in the narrative that just wound me up more.

I liked the setting of Hawaii, I thought this was a good setting for a book and I liked the conflict between the native Hawaiians and the white incomers. I liked how the English used by the Hawaiians was portrayed, that felt very real and I appreciated learning about it. I didn't understand really why Sara's parents were French, and there's a few decisions like this that didn't make sense. Like why set it in 1985? What was significant about that, except for the fact that it meant no one had a mobile phone? I don't know. I did read the whole book because I wanted to see how it ended, but after a strong start I was honestly disappointed. I'm giving it two out of five.


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