This is the first in a series of seven historical novels called the Williamsburg Novels, which follow the families of the Days and the Spragues of Wil...moreThis is the first in a series of seven historical novels called the Williamsburg Novels, which follow the families of the Days and the Spragues of Williamsburg, Virginia, through over 160 years, many generations, and several wars (from the American Revolution in Dawn's Early Light through the beginning years of World War II in This Was Tomorrow and Homing). I have read them so many times (starting when I was about seven years old) that I practically have them memorized, as have most of the other women in my family. Each book focuses on one or two main romances, with other strands of story weaving through them.
Thane has two remarkable gifts which keep the books compelling through every read. The first is the ability to portray the events, characters, and atmosphere of the historical periods she's writing about convincingly and memorably. Thane spent many years doing research in the United States and in England, and she's able to translate her research into a richly detailed historical background.
Against this background is set Thane's other gift: her characters. You might think that in a series of seven books about the same family, the characters would tend to blend into each other, but that's not the case; every one of them is an individual personality. The nicest effect of this is that as the books get closer together in time (Ever After through Homing only covers slightly over forty years), many characters feature throughout the books, and you get to see how their personalities and relationships develop over time and how the romances central to previous books worked out.
Rereading the Williamsburg books is like revisiting old, loved friends; I can remember meeting them for the first time, but it's even nicer to revisit them.(less)
I'm fond of all Noel Streatfeild's books, but this one, being the first I read, has a special place in my heart. It introduces Pauline, Petrova, and P...moreI'm fond of all Noel Streatfeild's books, but this one, being the first I read, has a special place in my heart. It introduces Pauline, Petrova, and Posy Fossil, orphans who are adopted by an eccentric geologist who then disappears for years, leaving the girls in the care of his niece Sylvia and her old nanny, Nana. When the money he left Sylvia runs out, they decide to send the girls to stage school.
The story and characters are lively and memorable, and Streatfeild describes the girls' training and their dreams and goals with warmth, humor, and a realism which makes the book come alive. I've probably read it twenty times or more, and I find it delightful every time.(less)
This was the first Mary Stewart I ever read, when I was eight or nine; I have reread it so many times that I've lost count, and it's still one of my f...moreThis was the first Mary Stewart I ever read, when I was eight or nine; I have reread it so many times that I've lost count, and it's still one of my favorites. Marvelous characters, excellent dialogue, and a fabulous car chase (in which the heroine drives just as cleverly and audaciously as the man chasing her).
Why didn't anyone ever think to film this? Or any of her books, besides the Disneyfied version of The Moon-Spinners? This one would make a fantastic movie; it's tightly written and suspenseful, and not even very long, so I don't think much of the plot would need to be cut. (less)
Désirée is one of those old family favorites which I've read many times and keep coming back to like an old friend.
It's the sweeping story of Désirée...moreDésirée is one of those old family favorites which I've read many times and keep coming back to like an old friend.
It's the sweeping story of Désirée Clary, the daughter of a Marseilles silk merchant, from her early love for and engagement to Napoleon to her later marriage to French Marshal Jean-Baptiste Bernadotte, who later became king of Sweden (and Désirée queen). Désirée herself is one of its chief charms; as the book is in the form of an ongoing journal, everything is filtered through her sparkling, direct, and charming personality.
Historically, I find it largely convincing (though I'd still like to read a good biography of Bernadotte to see if her picture of him is accurate), particularly in the portrayal of Napoleon, who can easily turn into a caricature of himself if handled wrongly; Selinko makes him entirely believable, as an egotistical tyrant, but also as a human being. Although Désirée marries Bernadotte, it's her scenes with Napoleon which are frequently the most arresting and emotional.
"I write this sitting in the kitchen sink." This is the first sentence of I Capture the Castle, and it must be one of the all-time greatest first sent...more"I write this sitting in the kitchen sink." This is the first sentence of I Capture the Castle, and it must be one of the all-time greatest first sentences (along with "It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife," from Pride and Prejudice, and "There was a boy called Eustace Clarence Scrubb, and he almost deserved it," from The Voyage of the 'Dawn Treader').
The narrator is Cassandra Mortmain, a 17-year-old who lives in a broken-down castle in Suffolk with her eccentric family: her father James, a writer suffering from a years-long case of writers' block; her stepmother Topaz, an artists' model who has a tendency toward outdoors nudism; her elder sister Rose, a beauty who desperately wants to escape the family's poverty-stricken life; her precocious younger brother Thomas; and Stephen, the son of a late family servant who is now the Mortmains' only breadwinner (and Cassandra's ardent admirer). Into their lives come the Cotton brothers, Simon and Neil, from America; Simon has just inherited the nearby Scoatney Hall, and Rose immediately sets out to capture him, thereupon setting in motion the train of events chronicled by Cassandra.
The foremost appeal of I Capture the Castle is Cassandra's voice and personality, which infuses the book with her wit, charm, and innocence and makes you feel as though you know Cassandra and her family and friends intimately. I've heard people criticize the ending, which certainly does not tie it all up in a neat resolution, but to me, that's a strength of the book: you feel that the characters can continue beyond the last page, because their futures are in doubt, and you can conjecture to your heart's delight about what might happen to them. (less)