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The Real Minerva

3.97  ·  Rating Details ·  405 Ratings  ·  64 Reviews
Minerva, Minnesota, in 1923 is the picture of Willa Cather-like gentility: the Northern Pacific Railway runs through a town center dominated by church steeples and the Hamilton Creamery and Pop Factory. But Minerva is also a small town of limited opportunity, a place where the status quo is firmly entrenched and rigidly enforced. Against this tableau of midwestern placidit ...more
ebook, 272 pages
Published January 13th 2006 by Mariner Books (first published 2004)
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Jun 09, 2015 Mmars rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
2.5 rounded up to 3

While reading this book, I questioned much of the plausibility and some of the history, in particular that of the Mexican work crew. Having grown up in the 50s and 60s fairly close to where this book seems to be placed, I did not remember hearing of Mexican work crews in the 20s. Also, to my knowledge there was only one Dutch family anywhere near where I lived, the Dutch having settled further west and south. But it is never wise to trust one’s memory of history. A quick searc
I chose this because one of my Etsy friend’s name is Minerva and she’s awesome. :)

So it’s set in the 1920s for most of the story. But little is said or done that couldn’t have made it set today, which is a little sad…I’ll explain in a minute. It takes place in Minerva Minnesota and tells the story of a mother and daughter, a mother and daughter, and mother and daughter: Barbara and Penny, Cora and Phoebe, and to a lesser but no less tragic degree, Hazel and Irene. Barbara and Penny live with Ire
Not quite as compelling as Summit Avenue, this book was still beautifully written. Sharrat is a master of characterization and getting historical details right. The plot parallels that of Summit Avenue, with its exploration of women trying to break away from limited gender roles, living on their own in defiance of society's expectations, etc. This book has a slightly darker viewpoint than her earlier novel--more violence, more focus on women's vulnerabilities in a society that forces them to be ...more
Mar 18, 2011 Stephanie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book was an interesting historical fiction read, but I think the best part about it was that the characters created by Mary Sharratt were so complex and generally likeable despite their flaws. I was really attached to them by the end!
Sep 27, 2011 Gaile rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
it is 1923. In Minerva, Minn, the owner if the factory, Mr. Hamilton has had to put his wife away. She contacted sleeping sickness. Thereafter he begins an affair with his live in hired woman, Barbara Niebeck. Her daughter, Penny suspected and after a flight, Penny flees and finds herself twenty three miles of town where Cora Viney has tried to have her baby by herself. Penny stays on to help Cora while back on the Hamilton place her mother continues her affair with her boss. Mr. Hamilton's olde ...more
THE REAL MINERVA is powerful and beautifully written novel. Barbara, Cora, Penelope: three women's lives that SHARRATT intertwines in a beautifully choreographed tale. These strong, singular women's stories are about struggling surviving, living and loving fiercely and without compromise. The roles and societal structure that defined small-town life in the 1930s shape the destinies of Barbara, Cora, and Penelope. Each has a secret to keep. Each must find a way to escape and reestablish their liv ...more
Jan 19, 2015 Jill rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Probably a 4.5.

While the narrator, partly due to age, didn't break new ground, I thought that the parts of the book from her mother's point of view were fresher, if difficult to read sometimes.

The stereotypes of small town life, particularly Minnesota small town, were well-drawn. I found the desire for self-sufficiency matched with the desire for love and connection and interesting juxtaposition.

The characterization is strong too. Every character is written in such a way that you care about h
May 31, 2013 Ellen rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was a pretty good story. Two grown women and two 15 year old girls each make choices that are, in the least, not in line with the norms of the day in rural Minnesota in the early 1920's and, at most, extremely desperate. The most interesting aspect for me was thinking about a "justified" murder. If you murder one person to save another, you have still killed someone. And if someone takes the blame to save the murderer, the one who killed may escape jail time and social stigma but still live ...more
♥ Marlene♥
Dec 15, 2010 ♥ Marlene♥ rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
I really enjoyed reading this book.It was a quick and an interesting read. It is the story about 3 different women who have in common that they are strong even though they might not know it.
Some of the plot was a surprise to me and that does not happen that much so that was nice. I am planning on trying to find this author's first book and i hope she will write more. Loved The Vanishing Point.
Jun 15, 2009 Julie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I loved Mary Sharratt's 'The Vanishing Point' so much so that I went searching for other books by this author. While not nearly as gripping as 'The Vanishing Point', 'The Real Minerva' was still a good read. This book took us back to an earlier time when women were challenged by far more issues that today are no longer accepted as 'the way it is.' Sharratt's 'Minerva' is a story of strong women overcoming various real events and challenges.
Jan 02, 2014 Jelan rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
I don't very often read an entire book in a day, but I started the new year by reading the entire The Real Minerva. I was completely drawn in by the flawed, heroic, tragic figures of the three women who are the centerpiece of this book. The writing was wonderful in the way that good writing often it is... it carried me along with the story, painted pictures, provided glimpses into the different perspectives, and didn't get in the way. If you're looking for a great read this new year, try it!
Audrey Terry
I'd like to say that not very many books have made me cry...but I'd be lying. This is a case where all the little injustices pile up until they overflow. Luckily they're countered with a happy ending :)I'm a sap, I freely admit that now, haha. In any case, I loved watching Penny grow up into a woman that was able to understand her mother's sacrifices, and then seeing Phoebe grow in the same vein. This is just a beautifully written story that I don't feel is told often enough.
May 07, 2012 Ellen rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Set in Minnesota during the 1920s, this is a story about three strong women who survive incest, domestic violence, harassment, and malicious town gossip. It's an interesting account of the limited roles available at the time for women and the sometimes desperate situations that uneducated women had to accept to support themselves.
Pam Wells
I picked this up at the library because it was set in MN. I read it in two days which is a rarity for me. It was an easy read about the complexities of women's lives particularly in the earlier part of the last century when women were limited in their ability to support themselves and the societal expectations. Mother , daughter relationships explored as well.
This is a good story. That said, I found it hard to suspend disbelief. I did have to finish this book that seeks to explain why women who appear perfectly ordinary might be moved/forced to commit horrific crimes. The compelling puzzle that kept me reading was how the author was going to explain the choices the women were inevitably going to make.
Oct 11, 2012 Linda rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Loved this - engrossing story, full of twists and turns, of scandals in small-town heartland. Women trying to break free from society's limitations, and more.
Beautiful characters and incredible ultimate climax. Wow.
This was a finalist for the MN Book Awards in 2005. Now I know why.
Aug 05, 2010 Natalie rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Another fab read from Mary Sharratt! I really loved this story, I found myself completely identifying with and loving Cora, and thought she was an amazing character! I couldn't put this one down at the end!
A coming of age story of a "hired girl" (servant) for a fascinating outcast woman whose farm rests just outside of Minerva, Minn. The story is good, with lots of twists, but it didn't really jump off the page and make me fall in love with the characters.
Story kept me engrossed--characters and study of mother-daughter/child, husbands/wives, etc. seemed very poignant. Some examples of decent people facing very difficult situations and handling them, if not effectively, sensitively and with devotion.
Feb 20, 2011 Megan rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Read this book! It kept me up late at night and I loved every minute of it. Even though I was mad at Penny at times for being so hardcore with her mother, I loved these three women who were fearless and strong and all the things I hope I am.
May 20, 2008 Pat rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Dark story of women who escape abuse and oppression through an abundance of blood, sweat, and tears. The plot remains well developed and coherent through unexpected twists and turns. However, much of the narrative did not hold my interest.
Jan 12, 2016 V rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Loved it. This is historical, regional, women's fiction at its best. The main characters are perfectly scripted and the story is riveting. I thought the ending was also heartfelt, lovely and on point. What a great book!!!
Andrea Badgley
Excellent read. It's been a while since I've found a book that made me want to put everything else in my life away so that I could keep turning the pages. Loved the characters in this one, and Sharratt really captures the depth and purity of relationships between women. (read 2010)
Sep 03, 2013 Sue rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I enjoyed this book. I connected with all the characters. It is great to have strong women characters and a sense of triumph even in adversity. I thought the author did a great job developing the characters. It is fun that the author is from Minnesota. I recommend.
Aug 08, 2009 Gillian rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a great story - I'm hooked!

Ok, i'm finished & as much as I wanted to keep reading & couldn't wait to finish...I'm sad I'm finished it! Utterly unputdownable. I'm thinking I want to read it again - need to check out some more books. Mary Sharatt, get writing please!
Feb 05, 2011 Julie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A book about strong women and their struggles during a time when truly strong women were only just emerging in small town America. It was a short, quick read, but a powerful and well written story at that.
Aug 07, 2010 Cassie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Nov 05, 2014 Katie rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I don't like books like this....too graphic, trying to be edgy. Yes, maybe if I kept reading, it would all have some sort of redemptive value, but I still feel like it is a cheap trick to try to pull the reader in with gritty details and torrid descriptions.
Mar 24, 2014 Summer rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Charming, intricate. No real bad guys in the story. Mostly folks just trying to get by. Some interesting information on the 1930s era. Quite a bit of incidental philosophy. I will definitely look for more of her work. Two murders, but they were part of the story, not a feature of it.
Vicki Marlowe
May 12, 2016 Vicki Marlowe rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Our book club read this and ALL of us just loved it. The characters were unique and it was well written. Cora was my favorite though. We read Summit Avenue in 2002, another great book by her. Can you tell we all live in MN?

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Mary Sharratt is an American writer who lives with her Belgian husband in the Pendle region of Lancashire, England, the setting for her acclaimed 2010 novel, DAUGHTERS OF THE WITCHING HILL, which recasts the Pendle Witches of 1612 in their historical context as cunning folk and healers.

Previously she lived for twelve years in Germany. This, along with her interest in sacred music and herbal medic
More about Mary Sharratt...

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