An excellent read for those interested in Rhodesia, now Zimbabwe and the transitions time has wrought. A somewhat melancholy, sad story, the tale nevertheless manages to present the pathos of the time without becoming maudlin.
In The Signature of All Things, Elizabeth Gilbert, famous for her memoir, Eat, Pray, Love, presents a fictional early 19th century woman botanist. Alma Whittaker arrives at a theory of natural selection and survival of the fittest almost simultaneously with Charles Darwin, whose seminal work, On the Origin of Species, was published in 1859.
Stylistically, Kohler makes excellent use of interior monologue, alternating between Freud and Ida. The novel is presented in a poetic, intimate way that encourages readers’ intense emotional involvement. Kohler also makes effective use of “flashes forward”, interrupting the present of the story to provide tidbits of information about the characters’ futures. The novel is suspenseful. We wonder: Will the young woman give in to Freud, or will she assert her own interpretation of her feelings? What becomes of her and the adults who poisoned her teenage years?
Kidd’s extensive historical research does much more than provide a backdrop to the story. The period details further the plot. For instance, the Grimke family acquires a state-of-the-art copper bathing tub on wheels, an innovation which allows a lying-down bath, and can be drained rather than dumped or bailed. When Sarah discovers Handful emerging from this tub in her room she feels, at first, that her privacy has been invaded. Then she realizes that “Handful had immersed herself in forbidden privileges, yes, but mostly in the belief that she was worthy of these privileges.
The names of these characters alone would be enough to inspire a novel, but Forsyth goes deeper, exploring a range of themes that includes the impact of tyranny (shown on multiple levels – both domestic and historical), emotional strength and weakness as manifested in drug addiction and prejudice, and the enduring power of the human spirit and love even when under great duress. In short, The Wild Girl is a novel that speaks, like the fairy tales that are woven deftly throughout the narrative, to the very nature of human existence in all of its frailties and strengths.
The forty year relationship between Mary Cassatt (1844-1926) and Edgar Degas, (1834-1917) is the subject of Robin Oliveira’s latest novel. Both artists were associated with the Impressionist group, which went outside the Paris art establishment, L’Ecole des Beaux Arts, with its annual juried “Salon” show, to win acceptance for their non-traditional paintings.
Caucus-Meteor comes across as a deeply human and interesting person who will win your respect and compassion. His tribe made Nathan and two other captives run the gauntlet. An old acquaintance and rival of Caucus-Meteor, Bleached Bones, a gambling man, places bets on Nathan bring deliberately harmed. Caucus-Meteor accepts the bet. Working behind the scenes, Caucus-Meteor tries to make the gauntlet easier for Nathan. He succeeds, and Nathan’s bravery as he ran the gauntlet wins the Indian’s admiration. They adopt him.
It would be a shame if readers overlook this vivid, sensuous novel because of the plain cover and cryptic title. Written in the third person, it reveals the heart and mind of a girl in her late teens who blossoms in the art world. Irish-born, London-based Cherry Smyth, the author, is uniquely qualified to write such a novel, being an art critic, curator, poet and creative writing professor.
In Falling Snow is a great book with a little bit of everything—history, family drama, romance, lighter moments with Iris and Violet, and even a little bit of mystery. MacColl notes that the telling of the story itself and capturing the spirit of Royaumont and the women who ran in was more important than scrutinizing every historical fact and figure, and I feel she pulled this off very well.
Bristol House is as unique a literary mystery as one is ever likely to read. Swerling makes some interesting choices with her narrative. At first impression, Annie Kendall strikes the reader as a brilliant, competent researcher whose personal transgressions have cost her, deeply, on a professional level. There are moments in the story where her carefully reconstructed self—the self rebuilt from countless AA meetings and confronting her deepest fears and strongest weaknesses—nearly shatter and the former, scarred Annie threaten to reemerge.