This historical novel by Jennifer Chiaverini (Mrs. Lincoln’s Dressmaker), tell the story of Elizabeth Van Lew, a young well to do lady of Richmond, Virginia during the turbulent Civil War. This historical figure risked her life as a Union sympathizer to pass information to Northern forces and offer aid and comfort to the wounded Union prisoners of war that lived in deplorable conditions. The author deftly tells her story and offers readers a fascinating portrait of this amazing woman. She was so well regarded by the North that when she died destitute in 1900, Massachusetts admirers arraigned for a boulder from the grounds of the Massachusetts State House to be shipped to Richmond to serve as her headstone.
Category Archives: review
When my pile of books starts looking like an avalanche of high-falutin’ literary la di da, I turn to Claire Cook for an antidote to this madness, and she never fails. If you haven’t read her books, she writes in an enjoyable, funny voice and each of her books focus on a woman who’s life has taken an unexpected turn and who may stumble and fall but always in a laugh out loud, true to life way. This one is coming, as usual in June, timed for the beach read crowd, and it will not fail to satisfy the reader. I find that ‘beach read’ books tend to be fluffy romances or funny chick books that are a bit short on funny and somewhat long on stilted writing, this is not the case with Clare Cook’s writing. We (women of a certain age) can identify with her characters, divorced single mothers, who learn to adapt and survive by following a dream they didn’t even know they had.
In Time Flies, Melanie is newly divorced and has developed an alarming highway driving phobia. She has also become a metalwork sculptor and trying to get her quirky work out in the marketplace. She has relocated from the south shore of Massachusetts where she grew up to the suburbs of Atlanta, thanks to her ex-husband. So when her high school reunion looms and a friend won’t take no for an answer, she has to face her fears and start living. Along the way she discovers that her life is much more interesting than she thought it was as friendships are tested and the another chance at love is once more a possibility. Loved it, and I’m not just saying that because I appear in this novel’s acknowledgements thanks to a very generous Claire Cook!
by Joanna Hershon
A sweeping novel of the lives of two very different men, in background and temperament, who meet as students at Harvard in the early 1960’s. Bold and outspoken Ed Cantowitz is from working class Dorchester and strives to climb the economic and social ladder. Hugh Shipley on the other hand is from a wealthy Boston family, already perched at the top of his social class, he is a budding photographer with a penchant for whisky. Their paths converge and then part as the choices each of them make take unexpected tolls on each of their lives. Love, family, tragedy and social class distinction converge in a series of twists of fate in this lush novel.
Trudy is a young woman who leaves a comfortable life with her by her parents in Wisconsin in order to marry the man she loves, not the match long expected. She leaves everything she’s ever known to tend a secluded lighthouse on the California coast with her new husband, whom she barely knows. They work with and for the Crawley’s, a family who have kept the lighthouse for years.
As Trudy discovers a whole new world offered up by the sea, she becomes fascinated by the creatures that inhabit it, having been raised land-locked, it is a whole new world to explore. A beloved teacher had previously unlocked her curiosity in the natural world and she begins to draw the creatures and study them.
Slowly she discovers the secrets bound within the Crawley family, and within a dark cavern beside the sea. I loved this book, and found the exploration of natural history in the 1910’s particularly fascinating. It really rips along towards the end as a secret is revealed and the characters true natures are exposed.
Melanie Benjamin is one of my favorite author’s and one I love to recommend others to discover. Her newest, The Aviator’s Wife is even a step up from her previous work. In this work of fiction she imagines the inner (and public) life of Anne Morrow Lindbergh, the daughter of an ambassador who is swept off her feet by the dashing young aviator, Charles Lindbergh, who is at the beginning of his career. Her marriage to the difficult Lindbergh, the tragedy of their baby’s kidnapping, and her care of him at the end of his life are all chronicled in a thoughtful and poignant way. I felt as if I finally ‘knew’ Anne, and had to keep reminding myself that this is a work of fiction. Ms. Benjamin was respectful of the Lindbergh families’ privacy and due respect, while engaging us thoroughly in the inner life of an amazing woman in her own right. I thoroughly recommend this novel.
Author Tom Reiss has introduced to the world the story of an amazing man, Alex Dumas, father of famed novelist Alexandre Dumas (Count of Monte Cristo, The Three Musketeers). This man, born to a black slave mother and a fugitive French nobleman in present-day Haiti, was briefly sold into bondage and ended up as a leading general in the French Republic post-Revolution. He was a giant of a man, famous for his amazing strength, integrity, and genteel manners. After serving under Napoleon he was captured and thrown in a dungeon, nearly forgotten by his country, inspiring his son to write The Count of Monte Cristo. I learned so much from this brilliantly written biography, did you know that our reference to ‘left’ and ‘right’ when referring to political ‘sides’ came from the Post-Revolution governmental structure of France? I sure didn’t! I could list many things that were revelations gleaned from this book, but urge all to read it and discover them for themselves!