Author Karleen Koen
The extraordinarily beautiful fifteen-year-old noblewoman, Barbara Alderley; the man she adores, the wickedly handsome Roger MontGeoffry; her grandmother, the duchess, who rules the family with cunning and wit; and her mother, the ineffably cruel, self-centered and licentious Diana. Like no other work, Through a Glass Darkly is infused with intrigue, sweetened by romance and awash in the black ink of betrayal.
GEMS: Each character is craftily composed and unique in voice and detail. The story rings with classic telling and is reminiscent and ambitiously echoes the possible influences of the Bronte sisters and Austen. I found myself emerged in the story and attached to the various characters. Koen does a beautiful job of chronicling the life of Barbara while presenting the realities of marriage, money, title and hardships. Whereas in some historical fiction, the plot becomes secondary to the research, Koen uses history to drive the plot and coincidentally carry her main character towards a journey to the new world. In addition, the inclusion of the story (read by the characters) of Robinson Crusoe works to foreshadow the tale and adds thematic depth. It contributes a pleasant opposition to the idea of domesticity and the lure of a fresh start in a new land. It also represents the individual dreams and spirit of the youth in the household, including the desire to escape through adventure rather than sit idly praying in a chapel in the country. It is the old way or tradition, verses the new generation and idealized hope of promise.
FLAWS: The first half of the story might seem a bit disjointed and although it gives a historical background to the scandalous sexual exploits of the elite at the time, it really is not terribly important to the core plot of the story. However, it does provide a basis for what was acceptable. Some readers might be discouraged by the length of the novel, but in defense, the meandering scenic descriptions are in step with the classic authors and possible influences mentioned above.