Tag Archives: Historical Fiction

The Cold Millions

Thoughts by Jess Walter, Harper 2020, 351 pages

Challenge: TOB 2021 Long List

Genre/Theme: Contemporary Lit / Wild West Miner Labor Struggles

Type/Source: ebook / Libby to Kindle

What It’s About: Rye is the main character of this highly researched, creatively constructed story involving the efforts of miners to organize against corrupt law enforcement and the corrupt mining industry leaders of Spokane Washington in the early 1900s. Rye is a teenager hobo-ing the rails with his older brother trying to find honest work. They meet anarchists, actresses, union organizers and everyone in-between. Most have good hearts and some do not. Are we motivated only by a base self-interest and self-preservation?

Thoughts: Maybe it started a bit slow for me but by the end I had been captivated and enthralled by the interesting history, the character development and how much I was rooting for Rye to find a good place to land where might have a chance at American opportunity. I loved it.

And it had lots of pie.

Rating: Five slices of pie. Apple ♦ cherry ♦ mincemeat ♦ rhubarb and “tart” as derogatory term for immoral women.

 

Copyright © 2007-2021. Care’s Books and Pie also known as and originally created as Care’s Online Book Club. All rights reserved. This post was originally posted by Care. It should not be reproduced without express written permission.

Sudden Death

Thoughts sdbyae by Álvaro Enrigue, Riverhead 2016, 264 pages

Translated from Spanish to English by Natasha Wimmer.

Audiobook published by Tantor Audio, narration by Robert Fass, 6 hours 57 minutes.

Challenge: TOB Short List
Genre: Historical Fiction / Tennis Lit
Type/Source: Hardback AND Audio / Library
 Why I read this now: Selected due to shortness of the audiobook, in hopes that I could finish in January to be my 12th book of the month.

MOTIVATION for READING: TOB…

WHAT’s it ABOUT: I’m going to copy and paste one of the goodreads blurbs.

A funny and mind-bending novel about the clash of empires and ideas in the sixteenth century, told over the course of one dazzling tennis match

A brutal tennis match in Rome.

Two formidable opponents: the wild Italian painter Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio and the loutish Spanish poet Francisco de Quevedo.

Galileo, Saint Matthew and Mary Magdalene heckle from the sidelines.

In England, Thomas Cromwell and Henry VIII execute Anne Boleyn, and her executioner transforms her legendary locks into the most sought-after tennis balls of the time.

Across the ocean in Mexico, the last Aztec emperors play their own games, as Hernán Cortés and his Mayan translator and lover scheme and conquer, fight and fuck, not knowing that their domestic comedy will change the course of history.

Over the course of one dazzling tennis match – through assassinations and executions, carnal liaisons and papal dramas, artistic and religious revolutions, love and war – Sudden Death tells the grand adventure of the clash of empires and the dawn of the modern era.

WHAT’s GOOD: It really is fascinating. And has its funny moments.

What’s NOT so good: It’s also too difficult to keep track of in my current end-of-month scramble to finish a book (impatience) and the wrestling with reading books I feel “I have to” and not what “I want to” — which I realize is messed-up thinking so let’s throw in the current state of the world affairs, my own crazy messy life stuff, and realizing I have a book club book to read by next week.

Allow me to share a few thoughts from my reader friends:

sdbyaegr

FINAL THOUGHTS: I’m skimming the rest of this and do not think I will be missing anything (actually, as I miss EVERYTHING!) – in other words, I will be able to follow the upcoming TOB commentary and likely agree with everyone. If you are reading this, let me know if it has any pie.

RATING: Three slices of pie! I liked it, I’m just needing to move on. It does deserve more time and fuller attention than I care to give it at this time. I have my regrets and may I only mutter, someday…

Highly recommended for fans of lively history and TENNIS.

 

pierating

Copyright © 2007-2017. Care’s Online Book Club. All rights reserved. This post was originally posted by Care from Care’s Online Book Club.  It should not be reproduced without express written permission.

March

Thoughts marchbygb by Geraldine Brooks, Penguin Books 2006 (orig 2004), 288 pages

Challenge: What’s in a Name Challenge, Month category wian2016
Genre: Fanfiction
Type/Source: Tradeback/Used Bookstore
 Why I read this now:  To finish up the challenge.

MOTIVATION for READING: I have been interested in this because it explores a missing element or side story to Louisa May Alcott’s classic, Little Women. This won the 2006 Pulitzer Prize. I have enjoyed two books by this author: A Year of Wonders 2001 and People of the Book 2008.

WHAT’s it ABOUT: This explores what happens to the father who goes off to the Civil War leaving his wife and four daughters back home in Concord Mass. I found him to be a very interesting and sympathetic character.

When he first enlisted, March was an idealistic man. He knew, above all else, that fighting this war for the Union cause was right and just. But he had not expected he would begin a journey through hell on earth, where the lines between right and wrong, good and evil, were too often blurred.   – from the Intro

WHAT’s GOOD: I thought it felt extremely authentic and inventive. The language used, descriptions of war and the issues surrounding slavery, the morality questioned made this an excellent experience. The two part structure – first we are given Mr. March’s side of events and in the second, we find out what Mrs. March REALLY thinks and how different her views were from her husband’s impressions was fascinating and lent an interesting light to the subtle difficulties of communication between husband and wife.

FINAL THOUGHTS: I am so more motivated to reread Little Women. I would love to have face-to-face discussions  about what some have mentioned that this ‘ruins Little Women‘ or violates the saintly image of Father. I thought he came across as vibrantly human and admirable in his attempts to be true.

RATING: Five slices of pie.

“Kindly Mr. Brooke had bought me a pie, which he had kept warmed by the fire, and I ate it gratefully,…”  p.249

Coinky-dink Book Link to Big Magic: “We do not have ideas. The idea has us . . . and drives us into the arena to fight for it like gladiators, who combat whether they will or no.”

Also, having read The Good Lord Bird, I enjoyed having another literary view of John Brown, Abolitionist. Just click on the title I just mentioned to read my review of that National Book Winner.

pierating

Copyright © 2007-2016. Care’s Online Book Club. All rights reserved. This post was originally posted by Care from Care’s Online Book Club.  It should not be reproduced without express written permission.

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Orphan Train

Thoughts opbycbk by Christina Baker Kline, William Morrow Paperbacks 2013, 278 pages

Challenge:  Newcomers Book Club
Genre: Contemporary Lit? Historical Fiction?
Type/Source: Tradeback/Library (and then I received it as a gift! THEN, I sent it to my MIL.)
 Why I read this now: Club is Thursday May 5

Vivian is an elderly lady living in a big house all alone in Maine when, through the efforts of her housekeeper, she meets a High School foster kid named Molly who needs to do some service hours or be sent to juvie. Molly had attempted to steal a beat up copy of Pride and Prejudice from the library.

Molly is hard and bitter but she and Vivian find they have much to talk about as they go through Vivian’s boxes and trunks in the attic. Vivian finds a confidant and begins to tell Molly the stories of her life – stories she hadn’t had a chance or desire to ever share before.

Vivian was an Irish immigrant to NYC when a tragedy occurs and she is separated from her family. She ends up on a train to Minnesota with other orphans. The story is based on historical facts of the “Orphan Train” which shipped kids west to families that could support or use child labor and thus ‘save’ them from horrible fates of living on the streets and slums.

It’s a short book that offers a glimpse into how hard life was for everyone at the turn of the 20th century up through the Depression era. I wouldn’t call it a sentimental book but I did cry. I thought it ended rather abruptly and wanted to know more about the fate of Molly and Vivian in the present time line.

This was the second book I’ve read by Christina Baker Kline, the first being The Way Life Should Be. I might be a sucker for books set in Maine.

fourpie

RATING: Four slices of pie. Lots of pie references!  ‘Baking pies’ on one page, Sausage Pie on another page and then Rhubarb Tart…

“In places I have to crunch through the top layer of snow, [sic] as pie crust.”•
  • I don’t have the book and I think I typed the quote incorrectly. Is it THICK as PIE CRUST or was it SLICK as pie crust? Anyone have the book to verify? page 153…

 

pierating

Copyright © 2007-2016. Care’s Online Book Club. All rights reserved. This post was originally posted by Care from Care’s Online Book Club.  It should not be reproduced without express written permission.

 

The Aviator’s Wife

Thoughts tawbymb The Aviator’s Wife by Melanie Benjamin, Bantam Books 2013, 402 pages

The blurb from the back of the book (with my thoughts in parenthesis):

When Anne Morrow, a shy college senior with hidden literary aspirations, travels to Mexico City to spend Christmas with her family, she meets Colonel Charles Lindbergh, fresh off his celebrated 1927 solo flight across the Atlantic. Enthralled by Charles’ assurance and fame, Anne is certain the aviator has scarcely noticed her. But she is wrong. Charles sees in Anne a kindred spirit, a fellow adventurer and her world will be changed forever. (Not really, what he sees is a competent brood mare of ‘good’ stock.) The two marry in a headline-making wedding. In the years that follow, Anne becomes the first licensed female glider pilot in the United States. But despite this and other major achievements, she is viewed merely as the aviator’s wife. The fairy-tale life she once longed for will bring heartbreak and hardships, ultimately pushing her to reconcile her need for love and her desires for independence, and to embrace, at last, life’s infinite possibilities for change and happiness.

Despite admiring Anne for keeping up with everything her husband gave her to do and then finally realizing a dream of her own to truly write (which I do hope to read more someday), this book fell flat for me. For one, Charles was NOT a great guy. Two, this book suffers from the “tell rather than show” problem, in my humble opinion. I spent most of the book feeling sorry for Anne – for the way her husband treated her and how the paparazzi hassled her.

So, though this book is not my cup of tea and lacks pie references, I expect that many people will enjoy this book very much.

I missed the book club meeting so I have no idea what the others thought of this. I do think it has much to discuss so I do give it a recommendation as a good club selection.

Rating:  Three slices of pie.

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Copyright © 2007-2015. Care’s Online Book Club. All rights reserved. This post was originally posted by Care from Care’s Online Book Club.  It should not be reproduced without express written permission.

The Killer Angels

Thoughts    The Killer Angels  by Michael Shaara, Ballantine 1975/orig 1974, 355 pages.  Winner of The Pulitzer Prize.

EXCERPT:

 “This is a different kind of army. If you look at history you’ll see men fight for pay, or women, or some other kind of loot. They fight for land, or because a king makes them, or just because they like killing. But we’re here for something new.  I don’t . . .  this hasn’t happened much in the history of the world. We’re an army going out to set other men free.”    (Chamberlain, p.30)

WHAT’s it ABOUT:  In the author’s own words, in the preface To The Reader:

This is the story of the Battle of Gettysburg, told from the viewpoints of Robert E. Lee and James Longstreet and some of the other men who fought there.

So, it’s a fictionalized account of the imfamous Civil War battle, told from both sides of the line.  I certainly am no expert on battles of the Civil War and have only a passing knowledge of the main players.  But I love history.  I have actually visited Gettysburg and only wish I had read this book before seeing that ground.

“Give them fifty years, and all that equality rot is gone. Here (the South) they have the same love of the land and of tradition, of the right form and the right breeding, in their horses, their women. Of course, slavery is embarrassing, but that, of course, will go.  But the point is they do it all exactly as we do in Europe. And the North does not. THAT’s what the war is really about.” (Fremantle, British ‘tourist’, p. 165)

This is another book that had me wiki-ing all the characters – I had to find out if they lived or died!   And I screwed it up – I *thought* I had searched for Col Chamberlain, the rhetoric professor from Maine, and saw that he died on the first day. All due to the ominous tone in this description at the very beginning:

“His younger brother Thomas becomes his aide.  Thomas too has yearned to be a soldier.  The wishes of both men are to be granted on the dark rear slope of a small rocky hill called Little Round Top.”

I immediately had to go to my iPad open google to find out WHAT HAPPENED?!  – mind you, this was page xix – and somehow?? not sure what I did, but I must have googled John Reynolds name by mistake.  Anyhoo…

Later, I was discussing this book – I am about half way through reading it at this point – with a coworker of my husband’s who was helping us move the boat to its winter storage location, when I told him, “I think I am in love with Chamberlain and I could just cry! I can’t believe he didn’t make it!” when Jerry says, “What? No, he lives. He survives.”

So I was all confused and had to google all these old dead (now) guys again.

“Once Chamrberlain had a speech memorized from Shakespeare and gave it proudly, the old man listening but not looking, and Chamberlain remembered it still:  “What a piece of work is man . . . in action how like an angel!” And the old man, grinning, had scratched his head and then said stiffly, “Well, boy, if he’s an angel, he’s sure a murderin’ angel.” And Chamberlain had gone on to school to make an oration on the subject: Man, the Killer Angel.” (p.119)

LOVED that the book had maps even though they were a bit small to read.

A big THANK YOU SHOUT OUT to Jason for helping me with army organization.

Sure, I would have enjoyed a bit more perspective from and respect for a woman’s point of view but I can leave that for another book.

RATING:  Who am I to argue with the Pulitzer Committee AND General Schwartzkopf, who said, “The best and most realistic historical novel about war I have ever read.”   FIVE SLICES of PIE. Cherry.  Any guesses as to why cherry?  😉

HIdeinWhitetoSkipLine

Copyright © 2007-2011. Care’s Online Book Club. All rights reserved. This post was originally posted by Care from Care’s Online Book Club.  It should not be reproduced without express written permission.

Honolulu

Thoughts   Honolulu by Alan Brennert, St. Martin’s Griffin 2009, 368 pages?,Winner of Elle‘s Lettres 2009 Grand Prix for Fiction

MOTIVATION for READING:   For my real life book club, The Bookies, due November 29, 2010.   I downloaded to my iPad and read it on my annual trip to Kansas for Opening Day of Pheasant Hunting.   (I don’t go hunting; I read.)

FIRST SENTENCE:  “When I was a young child growing up in Korea, it was said that the image of the facing moon at daybreak, reflected in a pond or stream or even a well, resembled the speckled shell of a dragon’s egg.”

WHAT’s it ABOUT:    A fictionalized account of true events that happened in Honolulu between the first World Wars told through the eyes of a Korean woman who signed up to be a mail-order ‘picture’ bride.

WHAT’s GOOD:      It’s all good.   My attention was instantly caught and my interest never wavered.

WHAT’s NOT so GOOD:    It’s never quite ‘great’.    It was almost TOO full of true stuff!    About half-way, I was curious if some of the characters were ‘real’ and I was astonished to discover just how many TRUTHs were shoved into this book!     By the end, I was getting the feeling that the author had a long list of people and events he wanted to capture and couldn’t cut from the narrative.    In that regard, I can’t say it didn’t work.  But it got a bit tiresome?   And then this happens, then this happens…. Sequential and memoirish.

I am so out of practice here!   I can’t think at all of how/what I want to say next but it’s something along the lines of emotional-manipulation but not that strong…   I felt that as a reader, I was told how to feel.    Is manipulation the correct word?    Maybe because I didn’t disagree with the emotions that it didn’t feel forced on me exactly but it was obvious that I was supposed to not agree with how the white people treated the ‘locals’ of Hawaii.   Yea, I get that.      Just more saying it than showing it, perhaps…   And one more thing – the narrator was TOO likeable, if that makes any sense.   She seemed too good.    That doesn’t even make sense to me, but I stand by it.

FINAL THOUGHTS:   So, I liked it well enough.   It was a fast read; I enjoyed learning about things I didn’t know; I would recommend this to many people if they like historical fiction. But I can’t in good conscience claim it to be great literature.    But hey!  Who says I have to only read great literature?!

RATING:   Three stars.     I do want to read Molokai, Brennert’s other highly-rated historical fiction novel set in Hawaii.

A road need not be paved in gold to find treasure at its end.

HIdeinWhitetoSkipLine

Copyright © 2010. Care’s Online Book Club. All rights reserved. This post was originally posted by Care from Care’s Online Book Club.  It should not be reproduced without express written permission.

Lady’s Maid

Thoughts   Lady’s Maid by Margaret Forster, 1991 by Doubleday (first published 1990), 548 pages  |  0385417926 (ISBN 13: 9780385417921)

Genre:  Historical Fiction.   Challenge:   None, personal referral, BBAW 2010 Forgotten Treasure.   Source:  Community Library

When I was last in the hospital for a quick in/out procedure, I asked the prep nurse if she had read any good books lately.   She said, “Yes, Lady’s Maid.   I can’t remember who wrote it but it was really good!”    Somehow, I managed to remember the title and later put it on my goodreads.com TO BE READ list.     When we were prompted with the post idea for the BBAW Forgotten Treasure, this is the book that came to my, even though I had not yet read it.   I do recall thinking it odd that I could not find many if any reviews online in my corner of the book-blogosphere so that is why I chose to highlight this.   Doing this prompted me to search the interlibrary loan service and reserve it.    I tend to read my library books right away – I’m not one to check out a ton of books at one time.   I’m quite monogamous in my reading habits.

I also tend to ramble on posts like this when I fail to write a review in a timely manner.   Yep, I turned the book in already.   DARN.   I also think that I failed to read the Introduction!   I meant to do that.

If you’re still here reading this (wouldn’t it be interesting to have stats tell us how many people skim a first paragraph and then wander off?) then I can only tell you a bit of plot, that I enjoyed it very much, and point you to a better blog’s review.   And then call it a day.   I have a new puppy, you may recall, and she is a cute little time suck…

This novel introduces the reader to the imagined life of Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s maid, ‘Wilson’.    Historical facts have shown when she first became employed and that she never (quite) left her mistress.   She was a witness to EBB’s elopement with poet Robert Browning, travels with them to Italy and had a super-dooper relationship with their son, Pen.  (READ the END NOTES.)   Lots more happens, of course.

Margaret Forster gives a fascinating (if not long, ahem) look at the life and employment practices in the mid-1800’s,  England AND Italy.

I enjoyed it.    I have no clue how or what to say more.    Honestly, I’m not all that impressed by Ms. Elizabeth.    She comes off a tad on the bitchy manipulative side of the fence when it comes to being her maid’s BFF and then so easily dismissive.    But alas, such were the times?

Amanda of Zen Leaf has reviewed a book that also looks at the life of Mr. and Mrs. Browning, but through the adventures of their dog, Flush.   oh!  and Flush is written by Virginia Woolf!! I can’t tell you how much that intrigues me.   Maybe I just did.    I’m wishlisting this for a read someday and I also want to tackle Aurora Leigh by EBB.   I don’t have much interest in Robert Browning, actually.

Well-written, engaging, lively, with depth.


Do read Litlove’s review, Masters and Servants, at Tales From the Reading Room.    I’m telling you, again.  GO READ LITLOVE..   🙂

HIdeinWhitetoSkipLine

Copyright © 2010. Care’s Online Book Club. All rights reserved. This post was originally posted by Care from Care’s Online Book Club.  It should not be reproduced without express written permission.

Battle of Cowpens, A Rambling Review of Sorts

mar1708002_edited1.jpg  Historical Fiction?   Or just HISTORY?

Somewhere or t’other, I found a great post on the controversy of memoirs playing loosely with the facts and I learned about the term:   Creative Nonfiction.    Isn’t a memoir a personal attempt to describe a time that they were PERSONALLY involved with?    Isn’t a memoir by necessity, a perception?    And, don’t we argue all the time that reality IS only a perception?   

I really don’t think Roberts’ Battle of Cowpens was anything but an author’s attempt to interpret scarce facts into what he thinks happened.   But I wouldn’t call it fiction and I don’t think creative nonfiction works, either.

So, what IS fiction?!     Gosh, I am out of school SO long and I know for certain that I did not take any classes in college that would have argued this question.     (I would have wanted to…   Maybe I should start again…)

Using the quick research methods I am famous for (open Google, enter the search words, hit enter),  I find this gem of a website:   The Historical Novel Society.    And, all I can say, is that I’m blowing air over barely-glowing embers of an idea to GO BACK TO SCHOOL.

The first two definitions presented from my ‘define fiction’ search in Google:

Definitions of fiction on the Web:

  • a literary work based on the imagination and not necessarily on fact
  • fabrication: a deliberately false or improbable account
    wordnet.princeton.edu/perl/webwn

  • Fiction (from the Latin fingere, “to form, create”) is storytelling of imagined events and stands in contrast to non-fiction, which makes factual claims that can be substantiated with evidence.
    en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fiction

So, Roberts doesn’t have the facts to substantiate his sequence of events.   OK.     But this book is NOT a deliberately false improbably account.   Not even close.

I am not a passionate student of history.   Certainly not the Revolutionary War, although most American students can name (maybe not!?) some key players:  Washington, Jefferson, Benedict Arnold, etc.     

All of these names pop up in this book but assume a close familiarity.    The key characters in this book are the colonels on the American side (Daniel Morgan) and the opposing British side (Banastre Tarleton).   I had never heard of them before!   I had never heard of this battle either.   Or, if I did, I was in grade school.

The book reads like a what-happened-when and then…    Roberts cites the recollections of these 2 men, he does provide background and how they lived full lives into old age, and he gives perceptions of motivations.

But it still doesn’t feel like fiction.   

Roberts, himself, becomes a character in a way.   He mentions that other historians have interpreted the battle and its consequences, in his opinion, INCORRECTLY.    

Here’s the recap:    Tarleton with his British soldiers AND a few converts from the area who have switched from the American side to the ‘Loyalist’ side chases Morgan and his varied collection of men to grassy rolling fields called the Cowpens in northwest South Carolina.     It is debated whether or not this was a wise spot for Morgan to choose – he had enough time to set up on this spot and attempt a trap.     It was a cold dawn in January, 1781, and the PATRIOTS won.   A much more thorough description of the setup and battle can be found on the National Park Service site

Granted, this book is  Volume IV of a 4-volume edition, KENNETH ROBERTS READER OF AMERICAN REVOLUTION.    Book 1 is Northwest Passage (have I heard of that?   Golly, I can’t even remember that I already read Atonement only 5 or so years ago!)   Sure enough, googling gives me evidence that this has been made into a movie;  so maybe I have heard of it!

And, this link tells me that Roberts is “…one of America’s finest writers of historical fiction- mainly because he actually really knew the history into which he placed his fictional characters.”

OK – Rambling enough.    Scattered, isn’t it?     You may ask:   Care?  Would you RECOMMEND this book?    Yes,  it has a few things going for it.    One, I would LOVE to debate the question of what constitutes historical FICTION and does this book qualify?    It’s a short book.    If you enjoy reading about battles and this specific time in the birth of our nation, absolutely!    But the REAL test for me, does it inspire me to learn more?   To read MORE of Roberts work?  YES.    And…   will I rush out to do so? or will it fade away and get buried by other Must-Read suggestions?   probably, probably.

But it HAS inspired me to give further thought to going back to school or taking classes in writing and fiction.     I’m at such a crossroads – What DO I Want to BE When I Grow Up? 

and that is a fascinating feeling…

  

   

The photo above is mine.   I couldn’t find this cover in google images and I do love the swirly colors, so I thought it best to add my pic of it to give to the internet.