This story, set in 1990, begins with a For Sale advertisement for The Seminary, built in 1877 as a Catholic church, but now a dilapidated Sydney landmark, vacant for the last 20 years, an extraordinary structure steeped in history but ‘in need of complete renovation’. The narrative of The Legacy of Beauregard (MoshPit Publishing 2018) is woven around the restoration of this building; the action unfolds as the property is gradually repaired, rebuilt and restored to its former glory. Or that’s the plan, anyway.
Author Rosa Fedele Garrett has given us an engaging and quirky story that blends the traditional with the modern, the traumatic with the romantic, the horrifying with the humorous, and the realistic with the fantastic. But it is her amazing artwork that first caught my eye: beautifully rendered illustrations and detailed life-like drawings; portraits of the characters that really brought them to life.
This complex story of intrigue and mystery captured my attention from the first pages and sustained my curiosity with a vast range of well-drawn characters, a complicated plot with secrets, twists and turns, and a mysterious and compelling setting. With overtones of the supernatural and even a bit of horror thrown in, the story is portrayed in rich language that is sensual and descriptive.
The Seminary is a crumbling heritage-listed castle in Sydney, and our story begins when Gordana and Richard Lemann purchase it and begin their grand plans of renovation. In the spirit of TV show Grand Designs, producer and presenter Maurice Ellis is chronicling the refurbishment in a documentary series called Dream Home Australia, filmed over the ensuing months. Marcela lives in the attached caretaker’s cottage and used to have a connection to Claudia who also works on the project. We’re introduced to Claudia’s friends Maddie and James, to Dan Stankic and his sister, Ilijana, and to the elusive Ratty. We get quite a few perspectives from this range of characters – it is a mammoth cast for the author to wrangle, and equally for the reader to get our collective heads around. But Fedele does an admirable job. Using luxurious language and authentic dialogue, she gives us a sense of history, of architecture, of the Cassandra-like gift of prescience or prophesy, and a tangled skein of emotional relationships, all with backstories and their own motivations and agendas. While there were a few moments of implausibility, I think that the book is intended to be read with the suspension of disbelief; the over-the-top situations and coincidences add to the melodramatic and farcical sense of fun.
This book has all the hallmarks of a gothic mystery: abandoned or orphaned children; family secrets; an old house that is almost a character itself; dreams; death; ghosts; a mysterious tunnel and mistaken identities. And we are treated to all the themes: thwarted ambition; blood loyalty; violence; betrayal; jealousy; love and lust. Fedele has done her research and this adds intimacy to the story, although at times it is a little laboured. If you enjoy reading a story that is heavy on detail, with an intriguing and mysterious storyline that blurs the line between reality and myth, if you enjoy devouring a book and having a laugh along the way, then this is for you. The voice is fresh, and there are some surprising twists and reveals at the end.