Thursday, November 24, 2011

Review of The Diary of Ellen Rimbauer

Author: Ellen Reardon, edited by Joyce Reardon
First published in 2001
Thickness: 272 pages
Read in Dutch
Personal rating: 3 stars

In short
At the turn of the twentieth century, Ellen Rimbauer became the young bride of Seattle industrialist John Rimbauer, and began keeping a remarkable diary. This diary became the secret place where Ellen could confess her fears of the new marriage, her confusion over her emerging sexuality, and the nightmare that her life would become. The diary not only follows the development of a girl into womanhood, it follows the construction of the Rimbauer mansioncalled Rose Redan enormous home that would be the site of so many horrific and inexplicable tragedies in the years ahead. The Diary of Ellen Rimbauer: My Life at Rose Red is a rare document, one that gives us an unusual view of daily life among the aristocracy in the early 1900s, a window into one womans hidden emotional torment, and a record of the mysterious events at Rose Red that scandalized Seattle society at the timeevents that can only be fully understood now that the diary has come to light. Edited by Joyce Reardon, Ph.D. as part of her research, the diary is being published as preparations are being made by Dr. Reardon to enter Rose Red and fully investigate its disturbing history. (

My two cents
This has been a bargain at the local library yard sale. I purchased it along with novels from Dean Koontz, Peter Straub, Justin Cronin,.. but wasn't entirely sure what to expect.
Not having seen the movie, and heard about the long long version Stephen King made with 'Rose Red', I thought I'd be in for a good oldfashioned horror story.

Not exactly what I was getting though. The Diary of Ellen Rimbauer is a recollection of events, which happen during her stay in Rose Red, being married to an oil baron, in the early 20th century.
You see her going through the changes from a girl into a woman, and seeing her embrace the 'dark' side, which in my opinion is only her own sexuality. She sees her own behaviour as a result of her being a sinner and when her husband invites other women in her bed, she starts praying to have him punished. Not to God though.
This diary spans a time of multiple decades, and during that time many disappearances and murders/accidents happen. Of course a house with as many servants and guests as the vast Rose Red, things are bound to happen without it being of any supernatural meaning.
The recollections of Ellen are ambiguous to say the least, when she suffers from fevers she believes the house to have a soul of her own and wanting her to keep building it larger. In her sane moments, she doesn't believe her own words she's written down. When her daughter goes missing, she loses it completely and add to that the abuse her husband makes her go through in watching her perform sexual acts with her housemaid, Ellen's sanity is up to be questioned.

I'm not easily convinced of there being haunted houses, although I do believe there is more to this world than we can see with our own eyes, just the idea of brick and wood being haunted is a bit much for me. In the novel the idea of an Indian burial ground is given and that just brings memories of 'Poltergeist' back. I wonder if they got their bread in this novel, which is almost weird in a sense since the novel was published almost 20 years later.

Something else that annoyed me was the editing of Joyce Reardon. It seems that during the time that the intimate relations between her, her husband and her housemaid, she made recollections of it, but Miss Reardon didn't think it appropriate to include these in the book. I'm not looking for anything sensational, but just thought it a little childish. For being published early this century I would've thought a little more common sense.

Well, one of my more lenghty reviews. The Diary of Ellen Rimbauer isn't a bad novel, but it isn't remarkable either. Good to catch the rebound you sometimes experience after finishing a wonderful novel.