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  • Writer's pictureMandy McHugh

Flowers of Darkness, Tatiana de Rosnay: A Review

3.5 stars I'd heard good things about Sarah's Key, and while it's still on my TBR, I was thrilled to be approved for Tatiana de Rosnay's Flowers of Darkness. The cover is ethereal and captures the title beautifully.

Set in a futuristic Paris, Clarissa is still reeling from her husband's infidelity when she decides to apply for an artist residency at CASA, a modern building that houses artists in exchange for portions of their royalty payments. It's high-tech, personalized, and streamlined, but Clarissa can't shake the feeling that she's being watched. As odd events add up, she begins to question what's really going on behind the scenes at CASA. This book was a mixed experience for me. Some parts--I LOVED. Clarissa's notebook entries reflecting on the discovery of her husband's affair were superb. Top-notch storytelling, eerie, unsettling--these sections were completely engrossing, and I wish there had been more of them. The CASA building itself is an interesting focus with layers of suspicious intrigue. I wanted Clarissa to venture out into the building more, get a sense of what the rest of it was like without Ben the maintenance man intervening or the doctor showing up (expectantly) unannounced. I also enjoyed the futuristic look at a Paris where climate change is becoming a real problem and the topography has dramatically changed. It feels prescient, like not set in some far-off future, but the future next door, a plausible, horrifying possibility that added to the suspense. This may be because my reading list has been on the higher-action end lately, but it took me a few chapters to sink my teeth into this. As a matter of personal preference, I am not a fan of Virginia Woolf. I studied her in undergrad, read all the works de Rosnay alludes to, and for that reason, the parallels between Clarissa and Dalloway's Clarissa were fun in that I recognized them, but I also didn't love them. The correlation between buildings and identity was such an interesting idea, and I thought that could've been fleshed out much more with CASA and Clarissa. I think the thing that I wrestled with the most was figuring out what this book wanted to be. A sci-fi mystery where AI try to dominate humans, down to their last creative drop? A mature woman's journey into depression as her life changes? A commentary on people and how we relate to our surroundings? Maybe it was trying to be all those things, and that's why I never fully got a grip on it--and why the conclusion was beautiful but left me wanting more. Ambiguity is great in my book, but this raised more questions and never really answered any that it posed in the first place. That's not to say the story isn't well told or the voice is lacking--de Rosnay's writing is elegant and I enjoyed Clarissa's character. Overall, though, Flowers of Darkness floats between genres and relies on analysis and imagination rather than providing clear-cut paradigms to sift through. Thank you to St. Martin's and NetGalley for providing an eARC in exchange for honest review consideration.


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