Praise for Alena
Books are rarely as dishy, clever and elusively charming as this one.
Alena is so eerie and elegantly suspenseful that I could see myself rereading it, the way I reread Rebecca every few years or so.
...will appeal to readers who enjoy interesting, well-written—and damned sexy—literary fiction.
Alena is often a brilliant takedown of the self-serious art world, rendering it helplessly camp by sprinkling some of its august and/or provocative names...
In her luminous and sure-footed new novel, Alena, Rachel Pastan has taken on a daunting task: borrowing the basic story of Daphne du Maurier's Rebecca, transporting it to contemporary times and setting it in an isolated art museum on Cape Cod.
Pastan writes elegant prose that honors du Maurier's work but which also envelops the reader in atmosphere and art.
[A] smart and suspenseful take on Daphne du Maurier's Rebecca.
We are treated to a steady, palpable examination of the purpose of art- why we want and need it, and how it makes us feel.
— The Mandala Writers Circle
What this book has to offer, beyond story, is what literature holds over film and other arts—how language is revered. Visual arts are about light; music is about feeling; but, prose is about the motion of time and how we see, smell and taste it in passing. Pastan is gifted with sentient and lyrical writing, and she paints a scene exactly.
— Grace Cavalieri, Washington Independent Review of Books
We're devouring Rachel Pastan's spellbinding Alena, a modern reimagining of Daphne du Maurier's classic mystery, Rebecca.
A magnetic Cape Cod museum owner invites a native Midwestern woman to take over the role of curator—replacing his one-time muse—and then stands by as she battles the lurking secrets her predecessor left behind.
"Last night I dreamed of Nauquasset again." Fans of Daphne du Maurier's timeless Rebecca will revel in this contemporary homage to her gothic masterpiece. Though updating the characters—the Max de Winter stand-in is gay; and the modern Mrs. Danvers, a business manager—and the setting, the narrative's excruciating tension hovering beneath the surface remains the same. When the unnamed narrator, a naive young art historian and lowly museum assistant, is offered a position as the curator of a trendy Cape Cod museum, she jumps at the chance. However, all is not as golden as it initially seems at the Nauquasset (the Nauk). Bernard Augustin, the museum's brooding owner, and the rest of the employees seem to be mired in the past, as the memory of Alena, the previous curator, who vanished more than two years ago, still holds sway over the Nauk and its staff. Trying to exert her own authority and creative vision amid an ongoing investigation into Alena's mysterious disappearance, she is thwarted at every turn by the phantom presence of her predecessor.
This artful take on du Maurier's gothic classic Rebecca has its own surprise twists. One is its heroine, who works at a New England museum, but finds she can't compete with its charismatic former curator, who died by drowning—or did she?
Ghosts that have control issues, and the earthbound people obsessed by those ghosts. This familiar theme, perfectly evoked in the worldwide best seller Rebecca, has found another home in Rachel Pastan's striking new novel, Alena, a haunting and clever homage to Daphne du Maurier's 1938 blockbuster.
Themes of obsession, death and intriguing facades turned dark have always feathered the gothic genre, and Alena is a polished, modern reworking of these themes. Pastan will likely scoop up all those Rebecca fans and lure them into her intricately fashioned web...
Jeffrey Keeten reviews Alena for Goodreads:
"Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again."
"Last night I dreamed of Nauquasset again."
If you feel the electricity of a déjà vu moment from reading those lines, it is because you have just heard an echo that has been sent down the cavernous halls of a deep passage, and the words, in the course of traveling back to you, have been elongated into something slightly different.
This book was written as a homage to Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier, a book considered by many to be a masterpiece. The characters from Rebecca are here, still recognizable, but erased, smudged, spackled, and redrawn. Read more.
Hitchcockian suspense infiltrates the cloistered contemporary art scene in Pastan's riveting third novel... Flush with erotic intrigues and insights into real, working artists, Pastan has written a smart, chilling thriller that leaves readers thoroughly spooked.
Rachel Pastan's Alena is at once a meticulously reconstructed death scene and an intelligent conversation about the nature of art; this skillfully crafted novel, which sustains the tension of a ghost story, is both an homage to Daphne du Maurier's Rebecca and an insightful meditation on our obsessive preoccupation with death - simultaneously creepy and entrancing.
— John Irving
I was utterly captivated by this novel, as much by the beautifully evoked Cape Cod landscapes and the glimpses into the rarefied world of art as by the increasingly suspenseful mysteries at its center. Rachel Pastan is a marvelous storyteller.
— Ann Packer
In this exquisite reimagining of a much-loved novel, Rachel Pastan weaves together a mystery, a love story, and a meditation on the nature of art.
— Brian Morton
Praise for Lady of the Snakes
Fresh Air's Maureen Corrigan calls Lady of the Snakes her pick for Best Summer Reading of 2008:
Rachel Pastan's novel, Lady of the Snakes, came out in February, but I've been saving it, because I had a hunch that it would be my idea of the perfect summer book – and was I ever right. Lady of the Snakes is a literary mystery crossed with a funny, feminist commentary on marriage – think A.S. Byatt linking arms in sisterhood with chick-lit champs Susan Isaacs and Jennifer Weiner.
— Maureen Corrigan, NPR's Fresh Air
Both a clever academic novel and a cunning literary detective story, Lady of the Snakes is perhaps most remarkable in its unflinching and compassionate portrait of its heroine, a young woman struggling to manage the competing demands of marriage, motherhood, and career. This is a marvelous, fearless book.
— Ann Packer, author of The Dive from Clausen's Pier
Can a woman have both a fulfilling career and a storybook family life? If you're looking for answers to this wearisome question, check out the manifestos by everyone from Betty Friedan to Caitlin Flanagan. If you want to see the dilemma smartly dramatized in the experience of an appealing, intelligent heroine, read Rachel Pastan's crisp novel, Lady of the Snakes.
Praise for This Side of Married
"Love at first sight," "whirlwind courtship," and "happily ever after" are not mere cliches in the Rubin household; they are the truisms that Dr. Evelyn and Judge Rubin have fed their three daughters throughout their legendary 40-year marriage. They have, therefore, unwittingly set impossibly high standards, ones each daughter despairs of ever achieving for herself. Unable to conceive a child, Isabel's marriage to Theo is failing rapidly, while Alice chalks up yet another in a long string of disappointing relationships, and Tina becomes engaged to a man who is still legally married. You can almost hear their parents asking, "Where did we go wrong?" Smart and insightful, with just the right combination of common sense and cynicism, each daughter ultimately follows her heart to her own, rather than her parents', storybook ending. Pastan cunningly reveals the myriad sides of being married—the good, the bad, and the ugly—in an engaging look at the current state of love and courtship.
— Carol Haggas, Booklist
Rachel Pastan has written a novel about families and falling in love that is at once moving, funny, and true. This Side of Married is a wedding bouquet of great wit and affection.
— Meg Wolitzer, author of The Interestings
Jane Austen's honey-and-vinegar spirit is alive and well in Rachel Pastan's delightful novel. She has grasped, with style and authority, the Austen paradox: the women's independence can be laced with the need for love, both given and received; and that wit and a critical eye can—must—serve a moral and, finally, forgiving vision. This Side of Married may mark its author's debut, but she has commanded the dance floor like a pro.
— Rosellen Brown