Friday, September 2, 2011

Title: Incognito
Author: Gregory Murphy
Pages: 302
Genre: historical fiction (1911)
Publisher: Berkley (Penguin)
Pub. Date: July 5, 2011

It's been far too long since I read Edith Wharton's The Age of Innocence for me to at all compare it to Incognito as many reviewers have. In that vein, all I really know is that they both have to do with early 1900's high society in New York City. In Incognito, lawyer, William Dysart, becomes acquainted with Sybil Curtis when his client, Lydia Billings, asks that Ms. Curtis's property be purchased for her. Mr. Dysart quickly realizes this task will be much more difficult than he was prepared for and that there's a lot more going on between Ms. Curtis and Mrs. Billings than it initially seemed. As he interacts more with Ms. Curtis and tries to figure out what's really going on, William begins to fall for this mysterious woman.

Incognito is heralded as a literary mystery. At times I did feel that's what I was reading, but really when it came down to it there really wasn't a big mystery. Sure, I was curious what the connection was between Ms. Curtis and Ms. Billings, but it's revealed practically halfway through the book and didn't hit me as this big "ah-ha". I mean, I sort of had an "ohhh..." moment but that's it. If that's what the whole story were built around it definitely would not have worked. There was another small mystery in that William's mother died when he was young, and his vague memories lead him to search for the truth about that situation. But even that one I saw coming. So for these factors, I found the story somewhat anticlimactic. I wish the author would have delved deeper into other factors of the story lines because it would have added a depth that would have rounded off the book much better.

The majority of this book was actually an enjoyable read. William Dysart was a likeable character. His counterpart, Sybil, finds him to be an honest, genuine person not common to his standing, and this is what draws her to him. Similarly, I found myself caring for his character for those reasons. And although Sybil's character was nice enough, I don't feel like she was built enough to make William's falling for her that realistic. In this sense, I found Incognito to be reminiscent of a typical romance book where nothing significant really happens to warrant the attraction between two characters. There were a couple scenes that I felt were a little hokey in their interactions. What I did enjoy reading about was William's wife, Arabella, and the realizations Williams has about how she essentially tricked him into believing she was a woman who desired only a simple life as well as a woman who loved children and wanted a family. None of these were apparently true, and she prefers material things and being a part of the high society. Murphy did well at portraying this luxurious but hypocritical society. I would have preferred more of this and less of the mild mystery and stereotypical romance. I certainly wouldn't call this a 5-star read as 17 amazon reviewers did, but it was okay and I could see where a romance fan might really enjoy the elements of this story. I, however, am now in the mood for The Age of Innocence!


Juju at Tales of said...

Great review. It's been a while since I've seen Age of Innocence.

Zibilee said...

It sounds like this book was billed to be a little different than it actually turned out to be. While a lot of it sounds interesting, a lot of it also sounds like it might have slightly disappointed me too. And what is it about all the positive Amazon reviews on average books? I am convinced that authors have their friends and families rate the books higher than they would normally be rated. I think that I might have to skip this one.

Audra said...

I've heard the 'mystery' isn't all that mysterious -- which sounds like your experience. I'm curious about this but less urgent based on your comments -- I think I'd probably feel the same as you.

@Heather: I too am baffled by those ratings on Amazon. I rarely use Amazon ratings for picking books any more -- my blog circle is more reliable!

Jenny said...

@Juju: I read back in high school! I've never seen the movie though.

@Heather: I am convinced of that too.. I might I liked the book okay but I don't see how so many people ALL gave it 5 stars

@Audra: I think if you go into it not even thinking of it as a mystery you might end up liking it better.

Tina said...

Ive seen this around and my first reaction was the cover...I loved it!!

Ill have to add this one to the TBR..:D

Michelle (Red Headed Book Child) said...

late 1800s and early 1900s are one of my favorite time periods to read about, especially in New York..London too. I have never seen or read The Age of Innocence. This book sounds intriguing even if it didn't garner a 5 rating from you.

Greg Murphy said...

Thank you for taking the time to read and review my novel. Of course I would have liked a rave, but your review is intelligent and thoughtful. I'm surprised you liked William's wife Arabella, as she's the one character I wish I had developed further. As far as any similarities between "Incognito" and Wharton's "The Age of Innocence" are concerned, they are merely coincidental and the result, I believe, of both novels being set in the early part of the Twentieth Century. Being locked in a court case at the moment with the actress Emma Thompson over my Off-Broadway play "The Countess", I am, I assure you, especially careful not to infringe on anyone's work -- living or dead. Thanks again for the review.

mike draper said...

Very nice review. I like your analysis of this book.

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