Rating – 4.25 out of 5
The nameless heroine of Alena by Rachel Pastan is a budding curator stuck in a dead end job. When she meets the mysterious Bernard Augustin at the art show of the year she immediately jumps at the chance to work with him. As she arrives at the remote museum it becomes clear that everything is not as it seems. With the previous curator dead under mysterious circumstances and the locals still fixated on her, our heroine must find her way, much like the heroine of Daphne du Maurier’s Rebecca.
“‘But I suppose you can take the walls down? Make one big space?’
‘Certainly. If that’s what you want. Alena used to say that anyone could hang contemporary art in a warehouse.’ She waited, letting the words settle through me like splinters of ice. ‘Of course you’ll have your own ideas.’
‘Of course,’ I echoed.
The empty rooms stood patiently, a row of fallow fields waiting to be sown.”
– Alena, Pg. 101
Why I liked Alena by Rachel Pastan
Alena by Rachel Pastan was a very clear reboot of Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier. As someone who always loved that story, I was hooked. The book is centered around the art industry and the a specific museum. The scandal and drama is real. The characters are spicy and vindictive in a way that only could be told in fiction, but also seem to leap from the page. The backdrop is perfect for a reboot of Rebecca. It is similar in it’s remoteness and it’s stark beauty. There is a sense of this place being haunted by Alena and many others through history.
Most of all, I appreciate a good mystery. The book keeps you guessing when it comes to how and why Alena passed. It also makes you wonder about how people leave an imprint with their work once they do move on. I appreciated how even though all of the characters were obsessed with the Alena, she did not seem to have any true haunting. It was all in the heads of those who had loved her. Right down to the stunning conclusion it is obvious that she had more of an impact on them than they did on her. I felt for the nameless heroine, but she was no match for Alena.
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