The Gilded Years by Karin Tanabe is an interesting novel based on the life of Anita Hemmings, the first African-American woman to graduate from Vassar College in 1897.
When the beautiful, light-skinned Hemmings enrolled in Vassar, she kept secret the fact that she was of Negro descent. Passing as a white was not an easy task, but Hemmings found a way to fit in, all the while knowing she would be expelled if her secret became known.
The story is told in the third-person, which in a way, kept me from feeling deeply connected to Miss Hemmings. As this is a work of historical fiction, it could not have been easy to imagine Hemmings’ innermost thoughts. I do think however, given the times and what was at stake, Hemmings might have experienced greater dread of being found-out and most certainly, a profound sense of not fitting-in with the elite women who would have attended Vassar at that time.
I did enjoy the story, especially knowing it’s based on an extraordinary woman who, against all odds, accomplished her goal. She is someone to be admired
If you enjoy historical fiction, I think you will like this book.
Imagine Me Gone by Adam Haslett was a huge disappointment. After noticing the book’s popularity, I thought it would be of interest. Sadly, I found parts of the book well-done, but quit it midstream when it repeatedly and graphically described sexual encounters of the characters. Did they lend anything to the story about depression? I think not. Instead, they distracted from the main storyline which is a family of five who are contending with a father and son suffering from depression and the ways in which the rest of the family is effected.
I have other complaints about this book, but in my mind, it is not worth my effort to expound any further. I am sorry I wasted my time in the first place.
News of the World by Paulette Jiles is a National Book Award Finalist and there is no doubt in my mind why this book is on the list. It is a simply told, powerful story which captures little known or discussed occurrences in American history.
This is the story of a six-year-old girl living in Texas who was
abducted by Native American Indians during the post Civil War era. Four years later, Johanna is found and rescued. She no longer remembers her name, the language she spoke, or the life from which she was brutally taken. The bewildered child is placed in the care of a 71-year-old widower named Captain Jefferson Kidd who earns his living in dimes traveling alone from town to town bringing the news from around the world to people in remote areas. He accepts the fifty dollars offered by her aunt and uncle for her return to Castroville, a town near San Antonio, hundreds of miles away and their arduous journey begins.
Although the book is about disconnected strangers, their story gives definition to words like decency, honor, and compassion. It makes one question the meaning of ‘being civilized’.
This is a masterfully told, moving story I highly recommend.
Old Records Never Die: One Man’s Quest for His Vinyl and His Past by Eric Spitznagel took me on a lyrical journey down memory lane. This is a memoir about Eric’s search to reconnect with his past by searching through old record stores, garages, and basements in order to reclaim the vinyl records which comprised his former collection.
His story is humorous, and at times sad, but one with a message I could relate to. It came into my hands just after I entertained the thought of parting with the vinyl records I have carted across many miles over the past forty plus years. I seldom play them anymore, but like the author, find comfort in listening to them from time to time. Every time I play them, I feel as though I am sitting down with an old friend with whom I have walked and talked and danced and cried. I couldn’t wait to finish this book in order to pull-out the records I have decided not to sell and listen to them again.
I loved this book. I think you will too. It comes from the heart of a talented writer.
License to Quill by Jacopo Della Quercia is a clever, interesting novel based on the writing of Shakespeare’s play Macbeth.
The story opens with the death of Christopher Marlowe – or so the world is led to believe. But is Marlowe truly deceased? And who or what is behind the faking of his death?
Enter William Shakespeare, Marlowe’s grieving friend, who is called upon by a group of Londoners to write a play with a King and three witches in the plot. Ah yes, Macbeth!
The story encompasses a number of players and plots. The author constructs a mystery based on facts which I found delightful and compelling. Based on my limited knowledge of the times and political subterfuge which existed during Shakespeare’s life, I wondered if the author uncovered a hidden secret about the Bard.
Is Macbeth really a cursed play and if so, why? You will need to read this book to find out!
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Tagged Books, Christopher marlowe, England, historical fiction, Italy, Jacopo Della Queecia, License to Quill, Macbeth, plays, queen Elizabeth I, Scotland, Shakespeare, theater, Venice
My Name is Lucy Barton by Elizabeth Strout is a novel I will hold close to my heart for years to come. Long-listed for the Man Booker Award, this is a story about Lucy, a woman who recollects a time when she was in the hospital and her mother unexpectedly came to visit her. Their conversations during the five days they spent together are steeped in emotions and revealing.
When Lucy Barton entered the hospital for routine surgery, little does she know it will lead to complications and an unexpected visit from the mother she has not seen for many years. Raised in extreme poverty, Lucy raises herself up and out of a small town in Illinois to become a wife, writer, and loving mother.
Her conversations with her mother unearth deep emotional wounds rooted in a childhood laced with years of hunger and abuse. Acting as if their lives were normal, Lucy’s mother remains oblivious to the truth about the past. Although they share the same experiences, their perspectives are vastly different. Lucy has never been told she is loved by either of her parents. Still, she loves them; they are her parents.
So much of this story struck deep at my heart that I could not help but cry silent tears. It confirmed to me, as a writer, the importance of telling the whole truth when writing a story. I urge my followers, especially those who are writers, to read this book. The author “did it right”. It is excellent.
Before We Visit the Goddess by Chitra Banerjee Divakuruni is a fictional novel about three generations of women. The story begins with the grandmother in Bengal, India and ends with her granddaughter in Texas.
The main theme of the story is mother-daughter relationships, but there are many others addressed as well. So many in fact, I thought the story got sidetracked too often by relationship issues in general and the main theme became obscured. The female characters are well-defined as are most of the male characters. The beginning of the book held my interest, but little by little the story jumped from one person to another and between different time periods in such a way that for me, the continuity was lost.
It is a good story which I took to be more about the importance of women and education than familial female relationships. It did make me curious to try Indian desserts. It has its good moments and overall, I liked it.
As a sidenote I wish to mention two things.
Weird coincidence: One of the characters in the book happened to have a birthdate which coincides with the day my parents were married. October 7, 1950
I am developing a new pet peeve. Has anyone else noticed how many authors have their characters biting the insides of their mouths and digging their nails into their hands until they bleed? I think it is time to declare a moratorium on these phrases. There must be better words to portray anxiety and fear.
Thanks for listening!