Alena: Book Review

Rachel Pastan’s new novel is a twisting story haunted by Alena, the former curator of the Nauquasset Contemporary Art Museum. A stunning beauty and a captivating person, she disappeared without a trace over a year prior to the novel’s start.Murder, intrigue, and confusion all take place on the beautiful coast of Cape Cod. Bernard, the owner of the Naq and Alena’s best friend, is impressed by the nameless narrator’s natural aesthetic and hires her as the new curator. In a whirlwind, she is whisked away from the Midwest life she knows and brought to New England, where she is abandoned.

Struggling to find her feet and organize a show for the grand reopening of the contemporary art museum, the narrator’s nervousness is only accelerated as she learns more about her illustrious predecessor.


Pale skin, dark hair, and a passion for the dangerous, the disfigured, the different, Alena seems to have set an insurmountable standard which no one believes the narrator can rise to, let alone supersede.

It certainly doesn’t go in the direction I expected but it was a beautifully descriptive and intriguing novel. Flitting between meetings with fictional artists, descriptions of masterpieces housed in Venice, and Cape Cod landscapes, Pastan notes small details which create richer detail. An entertaining read which you should definitely through in your suitcase this summer.

Available from Riverhead Hardcover, $20.00


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