I always had a soft spot for Gothic novels like Rebecca and Jane Eyre, so Dragonwyck seemed like a must read to me, especially when a brooding and mysterious character like Nicholas Van Ryn is involved. Nothing could be more perfect!
Honestly, in the beginning, I had some troubles warming up to Miranda Wells. In the movie adaptation, she's more sympathetic and we easily relate to her wish to see the world, where in the book I found her a tad unpleasant and extremely snob. I wasn't very sure I was going to like her, but slowly she became a much stronger woman, someone definitely more interesting.
Nicholas Van Ryn seduced me as easily as Miranda. After reading the final page of Dragonwyck, I couldn't stop thinking about him, the last of a long line of patroons, and also the last of a long line of cruel men. His heavy heritage combined with a dark past (both always hinted, never really explained) create a very intriguing character. He is charming and generous, but his attitude towards his first wife, Johanna, and later, Miranda, reveal how deeply disturbing he could be. His final scenes came up as a surprise... Somehow, I was expecting a different end.
The captivating historical background researched by Anya Seton is undoubtedly one of the strong assets of Dragonwyck. I knew next to nothing about the middle 19th century New York and the Dutch community. I did remember reading about the strong Dutch presence in the state in the short story The Legend of Sleepy Hallow by Washington Irving, which was set about 60 years before Seton's novel. But other than a reference here and there, I never had the opportunity to read any other stories who fully explored this interesting part of American history.
Dragonwyck can sometimes be a little predictable but the author's delicious writing style, the historical research and the wonderful characterization make this book special. This is definitely a keeper!
Grade: 4/5 stars