I absolutely was not prepared for this book.
First of all, I rarely (if ever) read contemporary novels. I certainly have never read an Australian contemporary. And I definitely have never read a gothic, supernatural, Australian contemporary.
The Legacy of Beauregarde starts out fairly innocently, introducing the cast of main characters, with whom you will become quite familiar as you move through the novel. To be honest, the switching of perspective every chapter took some getting used to; it isn’t something I have come across often and it did take me a few chapters to be able to remember what was happening to each character at the end of their last chapter, and tie it into the new one. That’s something I needed to work on, though, an no fault of the author.
To begin, let me say this: it is immediately apparent that there will be an element of the supernatural, because Marcela is part of a family that has what the call el legado; the legacy, whence comes the name of the novel. Marcela’s family name is Beauregarde. As a French speaker, this did cause me to chortle a bit: beauregarde translates, loosely, to ‘good view.’ Clearly, the matriarchal line had a sense of humour. You learn that Marcela has had to deal with her family’s legacy her entire life, that it affects every part of her existence.
You learn that Claudia, determined and fragile Claudia, is damaged. By what, never becomes quite clear, but her past affects her present strongly. She walks a thin line between perfectly alright, and very, very not alright. Danilo, brother dearest, caught in circumstances beyond his control as part of a family that charges for the help they lend. Gordana, who has struggled out of her past and then shunned it, and now clings with desperate and insane strength to a future she was promised that cannot be fulfilled. These characters, and others, are connected in the strangest of networks that truly doesn’t become clear until the very end of the novel. Secrets you hadn’t even guessed at but suddenly make horrific sense spill out from the pages along with secrets you had suspected but hadn’t admitted properly to yourself yet.
Honestly, I’m still not entirely certain whether I can say I truly enjoyed the book. This is NOT because of the book itself; quite frankly, it is masterfully written and I applaud Rosa on how well she has integrated the story of each and every character, and how the threads carefully laid throughout each chapter have been tightened and tied off perfectly by the end of the book. I find myself angry with some characters, appalled with others, horrified for still others and overall agog at what has occurred in the space of 300-odd pages. But did I enjoy the book? This I still do not know. I can’t decide if I need to read more contemporary so that I can stop being so shocked by it, or if I daren’t approach the genre for at least another decade.
What I was quite impressed by is that Rosa also illustrated the book; portraits or snapshots relevant to the succeeding chapter decorate the beginning of each. As someone without an artistic bone in her body…honestly, people that can both illustrate and write are just inherently irritating. The nerve! Also, I think the book cover (inset) looks like it would make an excellent poster for a creepy thriller film. Just sayin’.
This is something you will definitely enjoy if gothic fiction meets Australian literature is your schtick; you’ll also enjoy it if you like the creepier side of the mystery genre. I don’t know how quickly I’ll read another contemporary again, but I can certainly say this book gave me something to think about and will likely linger on the edges of my thoughts for quite some time (whether I would like it to or not!).
Disclaimer: Please note that the pictures in this post were provided by the author, as was a review copy of The Legacy in ebook form. As ever, despite my gratitude to the author for giving me a copy to review, the provenance of a book has no effect on my opinion of its contents.