#135 ~ My Lady of Cleves

January 14, 2009 at 11:41 pm | Posted in Books, Henry VIII, Historical Fiction, Reading | 9 Comments
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My Lady of Cleves: A Novel of Henry VIII and Anne of Cleves by Margaret Campbell Barnes

Anne of Cleves was the most unlikely of all of Henry VIII’s wives. She did not especially want to be queen, she was not physically beautiful, and she was rather forced upon him in order to produce an heir. Yet, along with Katherine of Aragon, she is a wife to which Henry should have cleaved to permanently. She is also my favorite. The first time I learned of her and found out that she was from a territory that is now the Netherlands, she had a special place in this Dutch heart of mine. Therefore, when I first heard of this novel on Reading Adventures, I new that I had to read it. I couldn’t have been more pleased when a wonderful co-worker of mine gave it to me for my birthday. Thank you, Poorna!

From the beginning, Barnes covers the known facts about the search for Henry’s fourth wife, Anne’s betrothal, her first regrettable moments with Henry, their short marriage, and swift divorce deftly. As much as I loved The Boleyn Inheritance, it is the author’s interpretation of those events that make this novel such a delight to read. For example, Barnes’ Anne did not want to leave her country, her family, or her people. This is just as well because her sister Amelia was prettier and was excited by the prospect of becoming queen. To her surprise, Hans Holbien, the artist sent to paint the portraits of the royal daughters of Cleves saw a beauty in her that most missed. The way this quality was painted is exactly what captured Henry’s eye. Unfortunately, Henry couldn’t see that when they met in person. The way in which the events surrounding their divorce played out in this novel was interesting and this view of Anne was endearing. I like to think of her in this way.

There was one lost opportunity in this novel. After Henry chooses Anne, we next find her on her journey to England. We do not experience how the news of Henry’s choice impacts Anne, her family, or the people she serves. We do not see her leave her home for the last time. We do not see how being overlooked by a king affected Amelia. As Anne’s life in England as it pertains to the throne are well known, it is precisely those missing details that would really grab and inspire my imagination. Certainly I can make up my own scenes, but I read historical fiction to have those undocumented moments come alive on the page. This was a minor drawback. It did not keep me from enjoying this novel at all. Still, the mild disappointment over what could have been, especially with an author so skilled, remains with me.

My Lady of Cleves is a novel I will always cherish. She was a strong woman who had to work hard to overcome her looks, which always felt like a shortcoming to her. I can’t quite place my finger on a specific passage, but Chapters 17 and 18 were beautiful in the way in which they depict the turning point in Anne’s life. What was accomplished there made the novel and solidified Anne’s place in my heart among Henry’s wives. She deserved the freedom and solitude that she found at Richmond. I’d wager that she was the only woman deeply involved with Henry who died happy and content with her life. I am glad that the author chose to bring Anne to the forefront. Historical figures do not have to be tyrants or tarts to be compelling. Sometimes a heroine with just a dash of fire when scorned is exactly what is needed to satisfy. This novel is a must for Tudor fans, but would be a delight for any reader.

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To buy this book, click here.

#134 ~ Loving Frank

January 13, 2009 at 11:28 pm | Posted in Books, Historical Fiction, Reading | 10 Comments
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Loving Frank by Nancy Horan

In search of a home of his own, Mr. Edwin Cheney of Chicago convinced his wife Mamah to agree to commissioning a local American architect, Frank Lloyd Wright, to design and build their family home. Mr. Cheney gained his house, but he couldn’t have known that he would ultimately lose his wife to the architect. Loving Frank tells the story of the love affair of Mamah and Frank from Mamah’s perspective. Mamah’s decision to leave the husband for which she never had any passion cost her as well. In her time, adulterous women lost custody of their children and their reputations to boot. Her story is one of heartache, sensuality, and the discovery of who she is and who she wants to be.

Loving Frank reads like a story out of 19th feminist literature like The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman and The Awakening by Kate Chopin. In so many ways, unfortunately, Mamah is the embodiment of Edna Pontellier. She finds her self dissatisfied with domestic life and agonizes over the realization that she really knew beforehand that she shouldn’t have married Edwin. Although he respects her father and cares for her family, he is not a creative soul. Frank Lloyd Wright is. As he, too, has grown unhappy in his own marriage, it’s only a matter of time before the two begin an affair. After leaving her family to run away with her lover, she comes face to face with the reality of living with Frank. Frank may be a man of vision, but he is all too human. He has deep character flaws that cause her distress and embarrassment. The guilt of leaving her children and the ill effects of being under the harsh spotlight of a the scandal loving media start to take their tole. It is only after attending a speech by Ellen Key, a feminist writer famous in Europe, that she starts to understand that the secret to her own happiness and fulfillment can come from no place but within herself.

Mamah and Frank are both self-centric people and are often unlikable. They both want the fairytale life, but tend to whine when it isn’t handed to them on a silver platter. Although he thought of Mamah as his intellectual equal, Frank was dismayed repetitively when she wanted to leave his side to pursue her own goals. Mamah continually found it difficult to love Frank through his human weaknesses. They both wanted nothing more than to express their creativity. Neither really cared to get their hands messy with the work of keeping relationships together. Had fate not intervened in the end, it seems doubtful that their relationship could have survived after the drama created by their scandalous relationship died down.

This review was difficult to write. I enjoyed Loving Frank , despite the fact that portions of the novel seemed long and dry. Given their personalities, it was often difficult to sympathize with Mamah and Frank. That being said, to enjoy a novel, it is not necessary to like the main characters. Lolita is one of my favorite novels, but I do not like nor agree with Humbert Humbert. The exploration of feminism in the early 2oth century through Mamah’s growth as a woman was very interesting. In that day and time, a woman lost her place as mother when she willingly gave up her place as wife. For women with children, personal freedom came at a huge cost. As the narrative tended to wander off course in some areas and then the author included too many unnecessary details in other, there were loose ends that were not tied up in the end. What could have been a brilliant, emotional and powerful conclusion to Mamah and Frank’s story fizzled. I would still recommend this novel, most especially for a class about early feminist literature. Although this is a work of historical fiction, it would provide the perspective of a woman living in America at the time.

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To buy this novel, click here.

#132 ~ The Conqueror

December 28, 2008 at 9:13 am | Posted in Books, Culture, Historical Fiction, Reading | 6 Comments
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The Conqueror by Georgette Heyer

The Conqueror tells the story of William the Conqueror, from his bastard birth, to his life as the Duke of Normandy, and finaly to his triumphant rise to the throne of England. Given the circumstances of William’s life and the political climate of both Normandy and England in the 11th century, this is quite an undertaking.

After reading The Reluctant Widow, I was very excited to start The Conqueror. My thinking was that if I loved her Regency Romances, I would really love her historical fiction. I was mistaken. Unlike The Reluctant Widow, this novel took me over a week to finish. This was mainly due to the slow and inconsistent pacing of the plot. While much time and energy was spent on William the Conqueror’s numerous battles, very little was spent on his relationship with Matilda or who he really was as a man. This lack of character development was true throughout, filling pages with numerous supporting characters between whom I could not readily distinguish. For me, they further bogged down the story and made it seem even that much longer than it really was.

There were flashes of Heyer’s brilliance when she tells of the circumstances of William’s birth, when she introduces Raoul, the fictional man through whom we meet William as a man and learn of his exploits, and when she tells of William’s “courting” of Lady Matilda. I also found it interesting to learn of ways in which William modernized the warfare of the day through strategy and the inclusion of archers. Clearly, William is a man capable of capturing the imagination of readers nearly a full century after his full and adventurous life. Unfortunately, this potential was lost to me amidst the superfluous characters and many of the battles in Normandy that did not add to the plot or provide any additional insight into William or, for that matter, Raoul or Matilda.

While The Conqueror did not engage me or take me away to time and places of William’s life, I am glad to have read it. This novel is best approached as one to read over a period of time. It would be interesting to read this in chapters or sections as a prelude to a thorough biography. I am curious to learn more about William, Matilda and and the lives of their children. In that way, this novel was a success. I hope to find a good book that focuses on the life that William and Matilda shared. If you have any suggestions, I would be most appreciative.

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To buy this novel, click here.

#131 ~ The Jewel of Medina

December 21, 2008 at 12:43 pm | Posted in Books, Culture, Historical Fiction, Reading, Religion | 9 Comments
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The Jewel of Medina by Sherry Jones

A’isha is a 6 year old girl who, after her parents betrothed her to Muhammad, the Prophet of Islam, was required to remain in her family home until she had her first menstrual period.  For an adventurous girl such as herself, she is tortured by the limitations placed on her simply because she was betrothed.  She dreamed of escaping to freedom with the Bedouins with Safwan, her childhood friend during the entire length of her purdah.  When she witnesses a woman from her clan dragged away by a man who would disgrace her as well,  A’isha can barely contain herself from taking up a sword and defending her neighbor herself.  She may have been young and she may have been a girl, but she had the heart of a warrior.   It was this spirit which caught the eye of Muhammad and changed her destiny.

I first heard about this novel in August when it was reported that Random House was pulling its publication for fear of angering Muslims and perhaps inciting violence.  This reminded me of the events surrounding Salmon Rushdie and The Satanic Verses.  I found the decision disappointing.  Self-censorship out of fear of what might happen is in some ways worse than forcible censorship because it isn’t always as visible.  How many other books have never been published out of fear?  Thankfully, it was finally published by Beaufort Books in the United States.  When I snagged a copy of this book through LibraryThing’s Early Reviewers program, I was very curious to see just what it was that caused such a large publisher to back down.  This is a novelization of a portion of Muhammad’s life through the eyes of his most notorious wife.  Still, he was portrayed with warmth and empathy.  His charisma and love of Allah are obvious, but so is his humanity.  While I suppose any fictionalization of Muhammad may anger some Muslims, no offense was intended.  Canceling this publication was much ado about nothing.

As most established religions have struggled against the treatment of women and their roles in society, A’isha’s character is especially interesting as (to Western eyes) Muslim women seemed to be the most imprisoned by their faith, family, and spouse.  The only issue I had with this novel was the story line surrounding the way in which the rules surrounding facial covering became part of Muslim life.  Making a vision seem convenient to Muhammad felt like an “easy out” that was not at all in line with his character.  I do not know exactly how this came to be part of the Islam faith, but it seems to have sprang more from the existing culture than from Allah.

The Jewel of Medina is a fast paced and engrossing look at the beginnings of Islam through the eyes of a young girl who eventually becomes the third wife of the Prophet Muhammad.  At the beginning I was reminded of The 19th Wife because of the common themes of plural marriage and being married to a prophet.  The 19th Wife and The Jewel of Medina are both ambitious novels attempting to provide insight on the origins of world religions through the stories of the women involved.  Interesting that both novels would be published this year.  For me, Jones’ novel worked where Ebershoff’s did not.  From the moment that A’isha is married to the much older Muhammad, I could not put the book down. This novel’s insights into living among sister-wives were more compelling and, as there is only one voice telling the story, the reader is always fully aware of the opinions coloring the story.  While we can’t truly understand today without knowledge of the past, by leaving the modern out of The Jewel of Medina Sherry Jones brought early Arabic culture and the roots of Islam to life without much of the  cynicism of today.

I cannot recommend this novel enough.  It is a wonderful way to learn about the origins of Islam through the eyes of a complex and strong young girl and then woman.  A’isha does not conform to my ideas of a typical Muslim woman anymore than she did during her day and age.  She had to fight for her place in Muhammad’s harim and for the place of women in her society.  Being so much younger than her husband, A’isha’s story does not end upon Muhammad’s death and I am eagerly waiting for the sequel.  The Jewel of Medina, like all of the historical fiction I’ve enjoyed, has peaked my interest in Islam, Muhammad and his wives.  I absolutely enjoyed the adventure and I’m sure you will, too.

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To buy this novel, click here.

#129 ~ War on the Margins

December 10, 2008 at 10:48 am | Posted in Books, Historical Fiction, Religion | 11 Comments
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War on the Margins: A Novel
by Libby Cone

When France fell to the Nazis during WWII, the Channel Islands fell as well, despite the fact that they were a part of the British Commonwealth.  Jersey, the Southern-most of the three islands, is the setting of Libby Cone’s novel about the way in which the Channel islands and its citizens were impacted by Nazi occupation.  Here, we meet Marlene Zimmer, an anxious single, orphaned woman in her mid to late 20s working for the Jersey Aliens Office.  This is where Jersey citizens were requested and then forced to register as Jews when they met the ever broadening requirements.  Although she considers herself a Christian and a British citizen, her father was Jewish.  When the office is finally instructed to classify Jews as foreigners, Marlene’s nerves can no longer take the stress.  She leaves her work, her flat, and her identity behind to hide on the island in hopes of somehow surviving the remainder of the war.  What she finds is work on the Resistance and a place to belong with Lucille and Suzanne, partners in life, art, and politics.

There are several stories told in this novel: Marlene’s reaction to Nazi occupation and her Jewish heritage, Lucy and Suzanne’s early life and current work resisting the occupation, and Peter’s journey as a Jew imprisoned and shipped to the Channel Islands for slave labor.  Marlene is the main character and her life flows through those of Lucy, Suzanne, and Peter.  I was most interested in Lucy and Suzanne’s story.  They were fascinating women and I enjoyed reading about their work for the Resistance.  As much as I liked Marlene, I would have loved to have read a novel entirely about them.

Intermixed within each character’s stories, there were chapters containing official communications between the Nazis to the Aliens Office and the registered Jews on Jersey requesting information about their status and their future. While Marlene worked for the Aliens Office, it made sense to me that they were there – as if Marlene was reading them and discovering what was happening.  After that, If felt that they got in my way. This is partially due to the fact that the novel’s layout is structured with double spaces between lines which made these sections especially hard to read.  After I found that I could follow the political changes easily through the context of the story, I began skimming and then skipping them altogether.

War on the Margins brought a perspective of the Resistance Movement during WWII that was unique and interesting.  I found the strength and creativity of Lucy and Suzanne refreshing and engaging.  This novel has encouraged me to look more into underground efforts against the Nazis in occupied territories.  Although the formatting of the text was unusual, I quickly got used to it with the exception of the communication chapters.  The novel read quickly and kept me interested throughout.  It would suggest this book to anyone interested in WWII, living under Nazi occupation, and the Resistance.

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To buy this novel, click here.

#127 ~ A Civil General

December 1, 2008 at 1:08 pm | Posted in Books | 4 Comments
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A Civil General
by David Stinebeck and Scannell Gill

General George Henry Thomas was an interesting man.  Although born and raised in Virginia, he chose to fight for the North during the Civil War.  That decision cost him his family.  Despite his sacrifices, he was still viewed with some suspicion by his fellow officers.  It was his drive, determination, wisdom and dedication to his troops, however that earned him the utmost respect from his troops.  As Colonel Swain, A Civil General’s narrator, described so well, the way in which he worked with his men made them so devoted to him that they would follow him to a sure death if that was what he asked of them.  After Thomas’ death five years after the war, 10,000 people attended his funeral, including President Grant.

After reading just a few chapters of A Civil General I realized that this book is really a love story written from the point of view of one soldier to another.  Colonel Swain clearly believes that General Thomas is the best military leader he has ever met.  Despite being taken into the General’s confidence on the way to Chattanooga, Swain remains in awe of this man.  As he relates the story of Thomas’ last meeting with his friend General Robert E. Lee, it is obvious that Swain took to heart all that Thomas told him.  This was the type of man Swain hoped to become.

A Civil General
is a fitting tribute to an American hero.  General Thomas was a man who, when called upon, put his country before his family and friends.  However much it must have pained him to do so, he never let it show because he knew that he was not alone in making sacrifices.  He felt it was his duty to ensure that no one made the ultimate sacrifice unnecessarily.  At just over 150 pages, this was a fairly quick read.  It did go into some depth during the battle scenes and, as a military novice, I did have some difficulty following exactly what was happening.  This didn’t prevent me for enjoying the book, though.  This would make an excellent addition to the library of anyone who is interested in the Civil War or military history in general.

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To learn more about George Henry Thomas, here is a link to his page on Wikipedia.

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To buy this novel, click here.

#126 ~ Mansfield Park Revisited

November 28, 2008 at 2:26 pm | Posted in Books, Historical Fiction, Reading | 8 Comments
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Mansfield Park Revisited: A Jane Austen Entertainment by Joan Aiken

I first read Mansfield Park in my early 20s.  A co-worker let me borrow her copy.  It was my introduction to Jane Austen and, perhaps as a result, it has always been my favorite Austen novel.  Although I’m not much of one for sequels to significant novels when they are not written by the original author (don’t even get me started on what’s happened to Gone With the Wind…), the thought of heading back to Mansfield sounded very pleasant.  I was hoping it would prompt me to re-read Austen’s classic.  Unfortunately that didn’t happen, but I was quickly reacquainted with Mansfield Park and its inhabitants and neighbors through Aiken’s Mansfield Park Revisited.

This novel picks up with Susan Price, Fanny’s sister, living with Lady Bertram and her cousin Tom.  Tom, as the oldest son, has recently become the Lord of Mansfield Park after the unexpected demise of his father.  Edmund and Fanny, married with two children, live at the Parsonage.  Maria Bertram, disgraced after leaving her husband for Henry Crawford, a man who abruptly showed her the door, is not discussed.  Julia, who made an equally impulsive and regrettable match, has two unruly sons and is constantly at Mansfield Park conniving to make a match between her sister-in-law and the new Sir Thomas.  Lady Bertram, who mourns her husband only as much as is required, has even less interest in her children now than she did before they lived with her.  The story gets started when, after Edmund and Fanny leave to tie up lose business ends for the late Lord Bertram in Antigua, an extremely ill Mary Crawford returns to rent the White House in hopes of improving her health.  Her arrival raises what would be considered an uproar in an otherwise sleepy Mansfield Park.

At just 201 pages, Mansfield Park Revisited is not a lengthy novel, but there were portions that felt long.  This can be attributed to a rather tame story line and the amount of inner dialog that could have been better conveyed through action.  Julia and her sister-in-law Charlotte could have made a winning foils if only they did something other than gossip or complain.  Susan equally could have been a stronger character had her struggles been more difficult to overcome.  Lady Bertram also would have been more fun had she a little of her old bite back.  When a hair covering lent to Susan by Mary did nothing to create drama, I started praying that Maria would come back to spice things up a little.  This would have been a better novel had the author spent more time on the Roman excavation picnic and all that transpired afterward.  The story line would have been better suited for a shorter novella.

Although it was not what I had hoped, it was a relaxing read. I would compare it to fan fiction, so the subtitle “A Jane Austen Entertainment” fits it very well.  As the novel became more engaging toward the end and I found the conclusion satisfying, I would recommend this to other Jane Austen fans who like having something around the house or in your purse to read off and on as the mood strikes.

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To buy this novel, click here.

#124 ~ Midwife of the Blue Ridge ~ Book Review and Giveaway

November 22, 2008 at 11:29 am | Posted in Books, Culture, Family, Historical Fiction | 26 Comments
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Midwife of the Blue Ridge by Christine Blevins

Maggie Duncan lost her family as a very young girl during a massacre between the British and the Scottish.  Her destiny falls into place when she helps a injured man find his way home to his wife, Hannah.  Hannah, a midwife and local healer, realizes almost instantly that her husband’s gangrene will end his life.  Childless, she sees Maggie’s arrival as the blessing to bloom from her husband’s death.  She takes Maggie under her wings and teaches her healing and midwifery.  Unfortunately, the little Scottish town in which they live is superstitious.  They think that Maggie is bad luck given what happened to her parents.  They believe she possesses the powers of the evil eye.  When Hannah gets sick with consumption, she gives Maggie one last gift before she dies – she plants the seed about going to the America.  After Hannah’s death, Maggie is living hand to mouth.  When she’s offered the opportunity to sale to America at the cost of spending four years as an indentured servant, Hannah’s words come back to her and she travels to find her destiny in the New World.

The Midwife of the Blue Ridge is an engaging novel about the joys, struggles, and courage of those who took the risk of leaving their home land in order to make their own way in Virginia.  From the very beginning, America was seen as a land of opportunity to those whose futures in their home countries was set from the moment of their conception.  It says a great deal that people would knowingly agree to four years of indentured service under unknown masters in order to have a shot at creating their own fortunes and secure their own land.  Christine Blevins brings this all to life through Maggie, Seth Martin and Tom Roberts.  Just as vividly, Blevins writes of those who were forced to go to the New World by their privileged and wealthy families found them to be an embarrassment best kept an ocean away.  Their resentment over their circumstances colored their view of this new land and how they treated other people.  In the Colonial Virginia painted in this novel, it is a toss up as to who was more savage, the Shawnee warriors or the disgraced lords of England.

Maggie Duncan is one of the most delightful heroines I’ve encountered in a long time.  Although her accent was difficult for me to catch on to at first, I was soon caught up in the story of this clever, sassy, and giving young woman.  The very scrappiness that was viewed suspiciously by her Scottish kinsmen was what kept her safe and gave her the advantage she needed to get off to a good start as Seth’s servant.  She endeared herself to Seth, Naomi and their children by her generous spirit and her strong work ethic.  Her sarcastic spunkiness endeared her to almost every single man she encountered.  I admired her optimistic yet pragmatic attitude toward life and the courage she displayed under the most stressful conditions found in the Virginia wilderness.  I enjoyed every minute I spent with her and hope that my daughters growing up in the Blue Ridge of Virginia four centuries later will develop her same strength of character.

Over the past couple of years I’ve read a great deal of wonderful historical fiction.  For the most part, I’ve shied away from historical fiction set in my own country.  I have read The Winthrop Woman and Devil Water by Anya Seton and, while they were both novels I enjoyed, they did not ignite in me the same excitement for my country’s history that Midwife of the Blue Ridge has.  Colonial America, just like Tudor England and Venice has its own charms and dangers to explore.  After reading Blevins’ novel, I am looking forward to spending some more time at home.

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Christine Blevins was kind enough to send me two copies of Midwife of the Blue Ridge, but that’s not all.  She also sent some wonderful smelling goodies!  If you would like a chance to win your own copy of Midwife of the Blue Ridge, a bar of handmade lavender soap and a bag of tea leaves, please leave a comment below about your favorite heroine or your favorite destination when you read historical fiction by 11:59pm EST on Monday, November 24.  I’ll take all the entries and add them to the List Randomizer.  The first name in the list will win the grand prize.  The last name in the list will also win a bag of tea leaves.  Based on the way the tea leaves smell, they will make a wonderful and relaxing cup of hot goodness during the winter.  The winners will be announced by noon EST on the 25th.  Good luck!

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To buy this novel on Amazon.com, click here.

#117 ~ Janeology

November 7, 2008 at 5:23 pm | Posted in Books, Family, Historical Fiction, Reading, Secrets and Lies | 7 Comments
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Janeology by Karen Harrington

Janeology, Karen Harrington’s first novel, opens after Jane, young mother of toddler twins, who suffers from depression following a miscarriage, turns manic and drowns her son Adam and nearly drowns her daughter Sarah as well.  This novel, however, does not tell this story from Jane’s perspective.  Instead, it is told from her husband Tom’s perspective.  After Jane is found innocent of Adam’s murder by reason of insanity, Tom is indicted for neglect.  The state decides to prosecute him for not recognizing the depth of Jane’s illness and for leaving his children solely under her care while he went to work.  This truly is something that could very easily happen today.

Once the initial shock of what has happened to his family wore off and Jane’s trial came to an end, Tom was eager to be or at least to feel punished for what happened to his family.  He might not have even defended himself at all had his mother not hired an attorney.  Luckily, she did, and Dave Frontella proposes a revolutionary defense strategy.  In it, he holds Jane’s genealogy ultimately responsible for what happened and this was nothing that Tom could have ever known.  Not only is the defense unconventional, his means of determining what it was in Jane’s genes is entirely controversial.  Dave locates Jane’s half-sister Mariah, a clairvoyant.  Mariah knows about a family trunk in the attic.  Inside this trunk are photographs and other heirlooms of which Tom was completely unaware.  She uses those to invite Jane’s ancestors to tell their stories.

Just like Tom, I had to suspend disbelief as Mariah embodies Jane as a young child.  As the stories of her family keep unfolding, I was drawn more and more into the history until I was almost frustrated with Tom for being so stubborn and not admitting that things are making more and more sense.  This mixture of historical fiction within a “ripped from the headlines” story worked very well for me.  Tom is a college literature professor, but like many such men, he comes off as being somewhat removed from his own emotions.  He is numb and could only seem to feel safe experiencing his life was back when things were right – back when he and Jane were young and in love.  Jane’s ancestors, however, are quite the contrary.  They are true to their nature.  They are messy, they are passionate, and they are entirely flawed.  I may not like them all, but I could wrap my arms around them and feel compassion.  I was acutely aware that my feelings toward Jane’s ancestors mirrored those Tom held in his heart for his wife.  He was unable to shake his love for Jane because he could not forget the story of their lives and love before she snapped.

Reading Janeology was a powerful experience for me.  As someone who suffered from post-partum depression, I could relate to Jane very well.  I could also very well understand Tom.  I feel that he very much did his best to make it through Jane’s depression, hoping that one day she would come back to her family.  In that way, he provided insight into what my own husband experienced.  I was also lucky to have read this novel while I was in Boston because some of the most important revelations about Jane’s family centered in that city.  It was thrilling for me to have come back from a three hour walking tour of historic Boston only to read about one of streets I crossed along the way.  It made that section of the novel that much more real for me.

In addition to being compelling, most especially during Mariah’s sessions with Jane and her ancestors, Janeology asks a question that cannot easily be answered: How much of who you are is determined by what your ancestors were?  In some ways this makes me wish I had a Mariah who could tell me the stories of my family.  In other ways, I think I’d rather not know.  Regardless, I enjoyed my time reading Janeology and look forward to reading Karen Harrington’s next novel.

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To buy this novel, click here.

BBAW: Best Historical/Historical Fiction

September 14, 2008 at 8:15 pm | Posted in Books, Historical Fiction, LIfe, Reading | 6 Comments
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Historical fiction became a passion of mine almost from the second I cracked open The Other Boleyn Girl a year ago last spring.  I’m absolutely thrilled to have the honor of highlighting each of these nominees and announcing the winner on Thursday.  Each one of the following nominees helps make history come alive every day:

Books’N Border Collies ~ Lezlie has a wonderful blog that I can’t believe I haven’t explored much before.  I just read her review of The Other Queen and it’s making even harder to wait just that one more day…  On top of reading historical fiction, Lezlie writes about her dogs.  What a wonderful source!  Here is what Lezlie said about her nomination:

I have been selected as one of the finalists for “Best History/Historical Fiction Blog”!! I’m so excited!! Thank you to everyone who nominated me, and good luck to my fellow finalists!

Civil War Blog ~ This is the blog for anyone interested in the American Civil War.  The content is provided by a group of authors.  Here is how this site is described:

TOCWOC (The Order of Civil War Obsessively Compulsed) is a group Civil War blog formed in September 2007. Our purpose is to enlighten and entertain readers on every aspect of the Civil War, whether it be Social, Political, Military, or other history. TOCWOC will feature a wide variety of blog entries. Some of the proposed topics include book and game reviews, a focus on Civil War period individuals, author interviews, information on book and game publishers, battlefield trips, preservation, teaching the Civil War, and much more. All of the authors of this blog are “informed amateurs”, Civil War buffs who do not focus on the Civil War in our day jobs, though some of us are closer than others to achieving that status!

Historical-Fiction ~ Here is another blog that makes me feel like I’ve been living under a rock.  Arleigh’s love for historical fiction began with Philippa Gregory, just like me.  It prompted her to read everything she could find about the Tudors and then other historical periods.  She is expecting a baby next month, and I wish her well as she welcomes a new one to her family.  She has so much material on her site, newbies won’t miss her during her maternity leave.  It will take us that long just to catch up.  One really neat feature she has is a listing of upcoming historical fiction releases.  Check her site out!

Historical Tapestry ~ This blog is authored by several women: Ana, Kailana, Marg, and Teddy.  They read historical fiction from all eras.  This is another great resource!  I’ve known about Marg’s blog Reading Adventures for a while now, but for whatever reason I’ve missed out on this.  I’m not sure if there is a connection with the other authors, but Marg is one of the mediators on HistoricalFictionOnline.com, a wonderful board I don’t spend enough time on these days.

Medieval Bookworm ~ Meghan is the author of this wonderful blog.  She is a “recent graduate of Brandeis University. I’ve been a bookworm since I was five and I now own over 1000 books, still mostly crammed into a small room in my parents’ house. I’m a LibraryThing addict. I am passionately interested in medieval English history and I intend to make studying it my life’s work. In this blog, I would like to expand on both these topics.”  Here’s what Meghan said about her nomination:

Thank you so much to all who nominated me for best history/historical fiction blog!  I know that I don’t exclusively read history or historical fiction, but they are where my heart is and where I try to focus most of my reading.  I’m just thrilled to be nominated.  I never expected it!

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