#64 ~ Devil Water

April 10, 2008 at 9:23 pm | Posted in Books, Culture, entertainment, Family, Historical Fiction, Reading, Religion | 8 Comments
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Cover for Devil Water

Devil Water by Anya Seton

They say the devil’s water, it ain’t so sweet
You don’t have to drink right now
But you can dip your feet
Every once in a little while

When You Were Young” by The Killers

Devil Water tells the story of Charles Radclyffe and his daughter by a secret marriage, Jenny. Charles is the youngest brother of James Radclyffe, the 3rd Earl of Derwentwater (I love saying and reading that name – I don’t know why). Shortly after Charles meets and becomes intimate with Jenny’s mother, Meg Snowden, James returns to England after living abroad with the Pretender, James Francis Edward Stuart. James adores his cousin James and longs for the day when James is formally recognized as the King of England. He quickly becomes Charles’ mentor effortlessly converted Charles as a Jacobitism. Jenny was conceived before James’ return. Her family on her mother’s side forced Charles into a marriage on fear of death. Despite this, he fell in love with Jenny the first time he saw her. It pained him more than he imagined when he was not allowed to be with his family.

It wasn’t until the failed Jacobite Rebellion of 1715 that Jenny reenters his life. While preparing for the rebellion, Charles convinces Meg, his secret bride, to allow him to raise her in a manner more befitting Jenny’s station as a Radclyffe. While imprisoned and waiting death for high treason, he convinces Elizabeth Lee, and old flame, to take Jenny in and raise her in London. She is well liked and well cared for in the Lee household. She is thankful for the them and is blessed with a friend in Evelyn Byrd, the daughter of William Byrd of Virginia. Still, Jenny never feels as though she belongs anywhere. Even when Charles returns to take her to the continent to live with his new family, Jenny feels like an outsider. The only person with whom she feels at home is Rob Wilson, a young man who helped her family in Northumberland. When Rob is transported to Virginia for a criminal act he committed in order to save her life, Jenny jumps at the chance to travel with Evelyn to the Colonies.

Until picking up this novel, I knew almost nothing about the Jacobites or the political climate in England that created that rift. The most compelling portions of this novel revolved around James Radclyffe and his participation in The Fifteen. His decision to take up his sword and fight when he felt certain it would mean his own demise was powerful. Although he sensed the weakness in his cousin, he fought for the Stuarts and for his faith. His dedication, loyalty, and faith in both God and man makes him a strong character. It is easy to understand how his wife could fall apart after his execution.

I sincerely doubt that Brandon Flowers or any other member of The Killers has read Devil Water, but it was very interesting to revisit this song while I was reading this book. Jenny has a constant desire for a sense of home. A sense she only really had when she was a young girl in Northumberland. She finds some peace with Rob Wilson, but she is not complete without her father. This fight costs her dearly and the reader feels this as well. Because Rob and Charles are an ocean and an ideology apart, Jenny is never complete. Her romance with Rob never has the passion that was present another of Seton’s novels, The Winthrop Woman. This bothered me while reading the novel. It wasn’t until I sat down to write this review that it occurred to me that this distance between Rob and Jenny made sense. It’s not that the author could have made their relationship more compelling and did not. It’s that Jenny’s two halves could never be happily reconciled with one another.

Jenny is an unconventional heroine. She cannot escape her fate, but she faces life bravely and never loses her dignity. Perhaps this is the greatest gift she ever received from her father. I highly recommend this novel and plan to read all of Seton’s work.

To buy this novel, click here.

On the Horizon

April 2, 2008 at 9:30 pm | Posted in Books, entertainment, Family, Historical Fiction, LibraryThing, LIfe, Reading | 2 Comments
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I have some fun things to look forward to in Literate Housewife-Land:

  1. I received an Advanced Readers Copy of Artist’s Proof by Lander Marks in the mail on Monday. After I finish reading it, I will be interviewing the author. I’m really excited to get to do that again.
  2. I am on the look out for two other ARCs: The Venetian Mask by Rosalind Laker (snagged through LibraryThing) and Gilding Lily by Tatiana Boncampagni (through HarperCollins). Since I snagged The Venetian Mask last month and it has yet to arrive, I’m starting to have my doubts about receiving it. That’s a little disappointing, but I’ll survive. Besides, it will be nice change to read two novels that are not historical fiction. I love historical fiction as you know, but a girl needs a little variety every now and then. 🙂
  3. My parents and my Uncle Ryan are coming down for a visit this weekend. I love to watch my kids interact with my parents. It should be a nice, relaxing weekend.
  4. I have registered http://www.literatehousewife.com! I am busy dreaming about how I want the site to look and work. As I’m no artist, I am looking for someone to help me with the colors, graphics, and logo I’ll need to complete the website and I’ve finally found a good lead. I’m hoping to have the site up and running this summer. I’m going to incorporate my blog and my Tudor Fan Site, which I’ll be building on that as well as well as adding a forum. When all that happens, be on the lookout for changes here, too.
  5. I am going to Vegas in June!!!!! As part of my new position at work, I’ve been invited to attend a conference being held at The Venetian. Sometimes I really feel like my life is swimming in connections. Artist’s Proof takes place in Las Vegas and, assuming that my LibraryThing snag will arrive in time, I might be reading The Venetian Mask by the pool at the Venetian!

Before all of that, I’ll be quickly finishing up Devil Water by Anya Seton and posting my review. It’s been a much more interesting read than the last book.

#39 ~ The Winthrop Woman

September 23, 2007 at 2:54 am | Posted in Barnes & Noble, Books, Childhood Memories, Culture, Historical Fiction, LIfe, Margaret Mitchell, Reading, Religion | 4 Comments
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The Winthrop Woman by Anya Seton

I joined the Historical Fiction forum at the end of last month. [I need to write another post on that later – it’s a lot of fun.] They have a book of the month forum for anyone who would like to join. From the beginning of September on, the picture above has been on the Home page. After about 10 days, I took the plunge and bought the book. I’m so glad that I did. The Winthrop Woman is a wonderful fictionalization of the life of one of the New World’s first citizens, Elizabeth Winthrop. To most, she would be best known as Elizabeth Winthrop, niece and then daughter-in-law of John Winthrop.

The Winthrop family is one of the best known Puritan families. John Winthrop served as the Governor of the Massachusetts Bay Colony off an on from the moment he arrived in the New World. Much of his family followed his beliefs. Elizabeth, however, is an exception. From an early age, she is scared of the manner in which her Uncle John rules his household and holds his extended family to account. At a tender age, prior to the death of her mother in childbirth, Elizabeth was caught while staying at her maternal family estate in a grave lie. Her Uncle John punished her per his view of Biblical principles. This event, as envisioned by Seton, became the basis for Elizabeth’s view of God as vindictive and harsh. Elizabeth never follows along the path of faith tread by her family and always distrusts her uncle’s motives.

Elizabeth is a fascinating character. I found her to feel very much like Scarlet O’Hara, a woman who doesn’t set out so much to thumb her nose at society as she does to live her life as she sees fit. In fact, there are parts of Elizabeth’s story that are similar to the early life of Margaret Mitchell. Both Mitchell and Elizabeth grew up in the midst of a family member with very fierce religious/political beliefs. In Mitchell’s case, that person was her mother, Mary. Mary was a suffragist who pushed Mitchell extremely hard to excel in academics, only to have her daughter push back. I will have to reread the early portions of Southern Daughter, the Mitchell biography I’ve read, to see if there is really a likeness between the two women. That should make some interesting research.

In addition to learning more about the Puritans in England and their dreams for the New World. They had dreams of being able to freely practice their faith and to set up a society based upon worshiping God in the manner they believed humans were intended. Unfortunately for Elizabeth, the Massachusetts Bay Colony under Puritan leadership was worse than living in England as a Puritan. John Winthrop and many other leaders became increasingly more hard-lined as the colonies matured. Isn’t that just like human nature? I came away from this book with a much deeper appreciation for the religious freedom I live with every day. Thankfully, whether I go to church or not is my own business. Elizabeth suffered a great many disappointments in her life for this very reason. I have to wonder how relations with the American Indian tribes could have better been handled if the European leaders were more interested in governing their territory than they were in monitoring the day to day lives of those they found ungodly.

If you are a fan of historical fiction or simply interested in reading about one of this country’s strong settlers (who happened to eventually own land in her own right!), you will enjoy this book. In the Author’s note at the beginning of the book, Ms. Seton makes mention of the fact that prior to writing this novel that the modern day Winthrops of her time knew that Elizabeth was someone for whom they should be embarrassed. She was the family’s black sheep. They just weren’t sure why that was the case. I hope that they read Seton’s novel. I hope that they now are proud to be related to such a strong woman. They should. She is a wonderful role model in my eyes.


A Friendly FYI:

I purchased this book from Barnes & Noble. The next day, while on my lunch break, I read up until page 46 until I realized that the pages were out of order. B&N was great about exchanging it for me. I posted this on the Historical Fiction forum and another person had the same experience. If you decide to purchase this book, I would ensure that the pages are all there and in order before buying it. I was lucky to have bought it at the store. My friend on the forum had bought it on-line. The company refunded her money without incident, but she didn’t feel comfortable buying it again on-line.

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