Tag Archive | historical fiction

In the Garden Room

by Tanya Eby

Some book reviews are easy to write and I bang them out quickly.  I read the book, the plot was (good or bad), the characters (were, were not) fully developed, I (do or do not) recommend the book…..

And then there are the rare books like “In the Garden Room” by Tanya Eby which punch you in the gut and leave you stunned.  These are the books which you don’t stop thinking about after the cover is closed for the final time.  The one which makes you feel so many feels, that processing and being able to adequately express an opinion is nearly impossible.  blog

I confess to being an Eby superfan, but as a narrator.  When she is associated with an Audible book, I don’t hesitate to add it to my library.  I was unaware she was also an author and was both excited and a little jealous to find this out.  How can one person have such a variety of talent?  I started Garden Room much the same way as I do most books nowadays, with absolutely no clue the subject matter.  This has proven to be a wonderful way in which to find treasure I might otherwise have not chosen had I known ahead of time what the story explored.  That said, if you are reading a review prior to reading the book, I assume you are actually looking for guidance or opinion on it.  This one is tough.  It’s not a book about rainbows and unicorns, and the subject matter could be a trigger for some women.

The story centers around two women in the early 1900s.  We meet mother, Cora, and daughter, Lillian when the women lived a boring, but safe life.  Having married a fisherman with dreams of creating a good life, but reeking of the stench of fish, almost 30 year old Lillian sees her future only as doom and gloom.  She was unhappy, never content and easily swayed by the charms of a vagabond who ends up being a talent scout for a Chicago brothel.

And the ladies lives go downhill from there…..Lillian creates a fantasy life in her head and sneaks away with her young daughter while her husband is away working.  It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to guess what is coming.  In the early 20th century, a 30 year old woman was OLD, but her very innocent young daughter was a great commodity.  As I said, this subject matter might be difficult, but Eby presents it so smartly, that as a reader I was drawn into the story despite the un-comfortableness of it all.

I listened to this book via Audible and must give kudos to the narrator, Christa Lewis.  She had me believing in the spoiled Cora, the defeated Cora, the regretful Cora as well as the unfortunate personality changes of naive Lillian to warrior Lillian.  There is one scene in the book detailing the inauguration of this child into the dreadful world of brothel life which literally caused me tears.  Lewis WAS that young girl.  Between the words Eby penned, and the voice Lewis spoke, that was one of the hardest paragraphs I ever heard on an Audible book.  It was not gratuitous. and was completely essential to the character development, but it was hard to hear.

This was also one of those audio books where you found yourself wishing you had pen and paper to jot down some of the lines because they were so impactful.  This one especially summed up the idea behind life as a woman:

So much of a woman’s happiness depends on what type of a cage she was kept in.

I’m glad I listened to this book and would not hesitate to try another Eby novel or listen to more of Lewis’ narration.

 

For the US State reading challenge – this one is set in Illinois.

 

The Bleeding Door

by Todd Cook

As a new resident to Appalachia, I was excited to read “The Bleeding Door” as it is set in the woods of Kentucky in the 19th century.  Todd Cook clearly spent a lot of time studying the culture and integrating it into the story.  In fact the author bio explains his passion for, and investigation of, the well known Hatfield-McCoy feud, and acquaintanceship with sources who live in the area in which he sets this historical fiction.  “The Bleeding Door” is a retelling of this feud with characters who are fleshed out and made real to the reader. blog

It took a while to become immersed in the story.  The first part of the book develops slowly and jumps among time and characters.  I am glad I stuck with it, though, because the author builds upon that early material in order to tell a good, old-fashioned tale.  By the time the story ended, I had favorite characters and connected to them and their ultimate fate.

“The Bleeding Door” is a novel which uses the setting as a main character.  The geography of Kentucky, the mystery of the dark woods, the isolation of those who reside there are all critical to exactly what happens in the hills.  The Civil War was very impactful for those states whose residents could go either way.  Face it, a Massachusetts neighborhood was more likely to be all pro-Union while the residents of Kentucky had decisions to make.  This resulted in in-fighting and danger for families and vengeance was a popular problem solver.

I hesitate to make this criticism because I never know if what I experience is as a result of the writing, or remnants of my brain injury with which I still deal.  Keep that in mind as this may not affect other readers in the same way.  Cook worked hard at incorporating the language of the hills from the 1800s.  While much of the story is written in our modern English, character dialogue is written in its original Appalachian speak.  For example:

“Whar are you fixin’ to take us?” demanded Melvin. “We hait done nothing’!” The captors did not answer.

Melvin grew more frantic.  “I hain’t never throwed off on Vance and Phillip! Them two never throwed off on me!”

“I sware t’warn’t me,” interjected Robert. “I was out fightin in Virginny when they was shot, I sware hit!”

From context I could understand the plot, but I did find myself having to read (and sometimes re-read) much more methodically.

“The Bleeding Door” is a nice tale and I will look for the next book Todd Cook pens.

 

 

US State Reading Challenge – Kentucky

 

 

The Lodger

by Louisa Treger

I love books, and I love to talk about books, but as a “book blogger” I struggle with excitement over sharing the experience I just had, with ruining the next reader’s unwrapping of an amazing present.

“The Lodger” is one worth unwrapping.  And do it slowly in order to savor the journey.  twitter

Confession time: I’m one of those readers who has a type.  I like contemporary fiction based in the US.  Am I dull?  Yes, I am.  But the first step in solving a problem is admitting…..ok, I just like what I’m familiar with as a person.  So, how did I end up reading a novel set in early 1900s London? Twitter.

If you are a reader, and not using Twitter to discover new authors, you are missing out. I stumbled onto the fact that writers are also people and like to talk to one another, as well as interact with us normal folk.  Whereas some fan girl over cute actors, I am an author fan girl. I am humbled to get a like or retweet of my amateur words from someone who is creative and brave enough to share their souls within the pages of a book.

Really savvy bloggers and authors frequently run contests on Twitter to share books, in print, e-books and even audio books.  I saw a contest for “The Lodger” and didn’t read a thing about it – I entered because the cover was beautiful.  I was drawn to it.  Luckily, I received an autographed copy from the UK which was also cool to receive international mail.

I opened the book and started page 1 having zero clue about the plot.  If you are a longtime reader of this blog you know that I became ill in 2013 and have struggled to return to my pre-injury reading ability. Things are still somewhat hard for me. I get distracted easily and if a book, tv show or movie doesn’t draw me in quickly, I fast lose interest and move on. Here’s the big deal about Treger’s book – I finished it in 2 days.  That is a celebratory moment and says a lot about the writing. I wanted to know more.

My husband saw me reading and reading and asked what the book was about – even at @100 pages in, my answer was “I don’t know”. I couldn’t pigeonhole this novel into a category.  Ultimately, for me, it was about a woman discovering herself and allowing us to watch the layers be pulled back.  Without spoiling your own discovery, Dorothy is a young, single woman in the city who struggles financially and has to make choices. Ah, the choices.  So many, so interesting, so unexpected.

Treger manages to capture characters who create all kind of emo. I was intrigued, confused, perplexed, angry….and at any given time I likely would have chosen much differently than the main character did in the end. What’s really wonderful about this novel is the writing style. You feel transported to a time when words flowed and were spoken with feeling, yet Treger manages to do so in such a way that reading her prose is effortless.

By the time the novel was done, and I was firmly #TeamDorothy, I discovered this wasn’t all just fanciful imagination. Treger based this novel on real people, and her use of Dorothy Richardson, discovered during thesis writing, made “The Lodger” even more intriguing. When you finish a book, and want to find out more about the subject or characters….that is time well spent.

And if you ever want to make this reader squeal, a signed book is your surest bet 🙂

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