Original publish date: 1 May 2014
We all have that sinking fear that at some point we’re going to become washed up and/or obsolete. In Julia Madeleine’s The Truth about Scarlet Rose, the aging Sylvia, whose stage name is Scarlet Rose, grapples with that not-so-secret fear as death and destruction of her family piles up around her–much of which is her own doing.
There was lots of dense character story development throughout, which gave a thorough understanding of the characters and their motives, but at times it was a bit much to read through to get to the next bit of action. I really enjoyed the “round-robin” method of telling the story with narrator focus on different characters for different chapters. This helped to give a more comprehensive account of Scarlet Rose’s life and the various truths that were established by her daughters, her son, and her new North Carolina acquaintances, all of which created a compilation of truth for the reader. There was quite a lot that happened to this family, which had me questioning, at times, how realistic that was that things coincidentally came together like that, but it certainly made for an entertaining read.
Being a suspense story, there were plenty of clues throughout the text to allow a reader to quickly surmise the trajectory of the action without being too overt about it and blatantly giving the crux of the story away. While I tend not to read a large number of suspense books, I am quite familiar with the conventions of the genre–not to mention that I watch a good number of crime shows, which follow similar conventions–so I was able to guess what would happen next fairly accurately, apart from the last little twist that seals the fate of Sylvia and her family.
The story itself is timeless as it deals with death, betrayal, family discord, and identity, but it was placed in the setting of the 1980s. At times throughout reading, I found that it didn’t matter what era it was set in, but Madeleine provided well placed reminders, be it names of songs, the use of technology, such as pay phones, or pop culture references, that furthered the 1980s setting but didn’t bombard a reader to say what year it was, which helps to retain the more timeless aspect of the story.
The first half of the story was rather fast-paced, but I found the second half of the story much slower-paced, making it more difficult to get through. Perhaps the slower feel to the second half came with the more sedentary nature of the characters as they had less action taking place, but it slowed my pace, which made it easier to get distracted by things outside the text.
Overall, I would give this a 3.5 out of 5 stars.