I am disappointed in this historical novel which seems mostly to be about fictional characters. The novel begins with casting Caterina, the teenager,...moreI am disappointed in this historical novel which seems mostly to be about fictional characters. The novel begins with casting Caterina, the teenager, as a hard hearted, cruel and trivial young woman, viewed by a fictional lady-in-waiting to Bona, Caterina's stepmother. This lady in waiting called "Dea" for short has a ridiculous marriage to a young man who never consummates the marriage but is depicted as lovingly honoring Dea and trusting to her secrets of his writings, codes, and schemes of prediction. Dea herself is depicted as being skilled at reading the tarot-like be-jeweled cards given to Bona from Lorenzo de Medici. Kalogridis does portray the assassination of Galeazzo Maria Sforza, her father, with historical accuracy.
I recommend to anyone interested in Caterina Sforza (Caterina Riario Sforza de Medici) to read the historical account by Elizabeth Lev, The Tigress of Forli. The television series The Borgias gave a twisted history of her, yet did show her as the heroic person she was but limited to her defense of her castle, her capture and rape by Cesere Borgia, and her imprisonment in Rome. (less)
I picked this book up at Pages & Pages at the Honolulu airport and read it while on vacation. I was pleasantly surprised at how well this author s...moreI picked this book up at Pages & Pages at the Honolulu airport and read it while on vacation. I was pleasantly surprised at how well this author set his protagonist "Regret" in to the early 20th century on O'ahu, including Waikiki and Honolulu. The period mostly focused on 1905-1920 but then skips ahead to the end our our heroine's life.
Regret is a young girl who longs to learn to read and write as her brothers are doing in Korea. She is told she cannot go to school and, now that she's getting into her teens, she needs to stay home and housework with her mother. An older friend persuades Regret to come to the red light district of her town and meet this elegant woman whom the girls persuade to teach Regret to first learn the new phonetically based alphabet and eventually to read--one novel that she keeps to read over and over and the newspaper retrieved from the trash bin each night after Regret's father finishes with it.
Regret's prospects were to continue working for her mother until her parents arranged a "good" marriage for her. A could of the other girls who are discontent staying in Korea learn that, in Hawaii, there are men who will pay their passage and give them $200. each to spend as they see fit. In this case, Regret left most of the money to pay for care for her younger sister and very young sister-in-law.
After a wild passage, the young women arrive in Oahu where the 'handsome strong young Korean men' who sent for them ranged in age from the 30's to 70's and were far from the photos they had sent "of themselves ." Regret's husband is not as displeasing to look at as some of the other men but he is in work clothes and when they return to his "home," it is a dirty, unkempt cottage just like his fellow workers have. He expects Regret to make his meals, wash his work clothes which are coated in red clay, to be obedient and modest, and to make babies with him--I didn't want to call it making love nor fucking, although it was closer to the latter. Her husband has little knowledge about how to pleasure a woman nor how to be tender and loving with her. Certainly not to have a conversation with her! It turns out that he gambles and drinks his pay away and beats her badly when he's been drinking. After she becomes pregnant, he starts being more attentive and cutting down on his drinking. During the period leading up to the pregnancy and into it, she has been working to provide food for them. Eventually, his promise not to drink is broken and he comes home and beats her horribly, deliberately kicking her over and over in her abdomen in an attempt (successful) to make her lose the baby.
The young women who came to Hawaii during that time were called picture brides. They came from not only Korea but from other countries. Regret's "cohort" of women stuck together through out their lives, in one way or another. Regret was one who had to run away from her husband and ended up living in Honolulu working various jobs, primarily as a seamstress of great talent. Eventually, she meets a good man, a widower, and they faced down the stigma of divorce (hers) and of him as remarrying. Theirs was a love match between two good souls. Over the years, during the downs of the depression, and with their 3 children, they develop their own businesses (restaurant and tailoring) and thrive and come close to once again losing everything.
The picture we get of Regret--who takes for herself a new name, "Gem," as in a precious jewel--is that of a woman who never gave up and always seized and shared opportunities. During her life she has been sending some money home but she has also been saving money to get her sister-in-law to come live with them in Hawaii. The author started the book with the reasons Korean parents favored boys over girls and came to name girls with names resonant with their dismay at having had a girl child. Hence, "Regret" was the evidence of her parent's attitude toward her. "Gem" is a great name for this resilient woman.
Throughout the book, the author weaves in the local and international news events, including the renowned Massie Trial. Hawaii during that period had attracted people from many different cultures, esp. Asian, Pacific Rim countries and islands, and other polynesian peoples. These people live lives very different from the white mainland wealthy people. I was afraid this was going to be too much of a lightweight love story but it was a quite good historical fiction with believable characters during this era. I loved reading it here in Waikiki. I definitely will return to the other books by this author
I found this fictional work based on Mr. Pepys Diary delightful as well as a good review of the year of the great plague in London, the great fire, an...moreI found this fictional work based on Mr. Pepys Diary delightful as well as a good review of the year of the great plague in London, the great fire, and the results of the fire in killing rats (hence fleas) and ameliorating the spread of the plague in the great urban center of London. I don't remember when i read it. I had to add this book manually. I am choosing a 1992 date as an estimate.(less)
I was eager to read this history of the life and times of Lorenzo de' Medici, "The Magnificent." It is an excellent history, filling in the complexity...moreI was eager to read this history of the life and times of Lorenzo de' Medici, "The Magnificent." It is an excellent history, filling in the complexity of Lorenzo's life and of the Florence he and his immediate ancestors helped shape. The Medici family are very interesting because of their life as merchants and bankers and how they shaped a "ruling role" without immediately being (or seemingly without striving to be) "royalty." All of my recent readings in this period of history in Italy, France, and England has broadened my knowledge of how royalty and sub-classes of royalty and "nobility" were created.
Unger stresses that Lorenzo created loyalty within Florence by trying not to strive to be "ruler" but by using consensus. However, he promoted his allies and "sidelined" his enemies or those who he thought would not be of use. Unger portrays Lorenzo as doing this artfully especially during his rise to power but that eventually this technique became known to his competitors and was thus less helpful.
As a history, this book was written in chronological order for the most part. This meant that different strands of Lorenzo's influence are always intwined in the text. This was most disappointing to me in that, while Unger quotes fairly often and extensively from Lorenzo's poetry, he does not bring together a portrait of Lorenzo as a scholar, a poet, and promoter/commissioner of the arts. He does create a sense of the tension of how Lorenzo kept having to give more and more time to the details of ruling Florence, keeping allies and defusing enemies and how he complained about not having more time for the "life of the mind."
I really give it a 4.5 stars. I learned a lot and was able to expand my knowledge in related areas (such as which Medici--and why--became Pope and how the various Popes before him were related to Florence and to the shifting powers of other Italian city-states and the papal states). (less)
A note I wrote during the first two chapters: If I did not have background in this area, I do not think I would persist in reading this book except th...moreA note I wrote during the first two chapters: If I did not have background in this area, I do not think I would persist in reading this book except that it is the most current history of Elizabeth of York--at least of the world around her. I was very motivated to read this book but, thus far, I am somewhat dismayed. There are tons of reviews already but most if not all are done by people who were sent free copies.
A day later I have read chapters 3-5: The book is more approachable now. I am reading it as a book about the general time and events of Elizabeth of York in which Weir and others have found increasingly more information about her and not just her parents and Richard III. I am also checking her references as I go along. In these chapters, in contrast with the first two, Weir has given us a sense of what she finds significant and not just a recitation of facts.
I mis-reported my progress earlier today (Tuesday Dec. 11, 2013. I was really on p. 363 of the hardback version and then started skimming and stopping to read key parts all the way to the end of the text, on hardback p. 467. Following that are tons of great end materials--voluminous sourcework: two appendices, select bibliography (that’s Weir's title, it is actually an extensive bibliography), code to sources used by abbreviations, and extensive chapter notes. Finally, that most necessary aid to non-fiction, an index. Within the text are glossy photos with explanatory titles. I found all of these additions very useful.
All in all, I find this a very good history but very reader "unfriendly." Since others have done so much summary, I will try to give cues to help different kinds of readers approach this text (along with what I hope will be constructive criticism). TO COME: I have separate draft in Word document.
I may return to this book starting with the first in the series (this is the second) but in comparison with other books about the Roman Empire, milita...moreI may return to this book starting with the first in the series (this is the second) but in comparison with other books about the Roman Empire, military, politics, etc., this starts as a long slough of the "heroes" being chased by "non-heroes" with dull sentence after dull sentence after dull sentence. It sent me back to Ben Kane's The Forgotten Legion as a comparison to see whether I was being unfair to Sidebottom. Nope. The Forgotten Legion still grips me from the get-go and is well written. It will take a lot for me to give time to Sidebottom when there are so many other attractive books on this and related topics.(less)
I found this book extremely helpful in the immediate aftermath of 9/11. Carmen bin Ladin married a brother of Osama Bin Ladin, having fallen in love w...moreI found this book extremely helpful in the immediate aftermath of 9/11. Carmen bin Ladin married a brother of Osama Bin Ladin, having fallen in love while both were students in the USA. She is part Persian/Iranian and part Swiss and raised as a well-educated person. She describes what life in the Saudi kingdom was like during the time she was married to him, including her shock at learning how her life was restricted in the kingdom. She divorced her husband and said she was afraid of being attacked by his family and his allies.(less)
I am actually through with this book but I am composing my review separately until after our book club discusses it. I also went back and read The Cou...moreI am actually through with this book but I am composing my review separately until after our book club discusses it. I also went back and read The Count of Monte Christo by General Dumas' son, Alexander Dumas. Reiss mentions how the son used what he had learned about his father in creating this novel.(less)
I love Isabel Allende's books but it was poignant to realize I was listening on 9/11/2013 and recalling that 9/11/1973 was the start of the coup d'eta...moreI love Isabel Allende's books but it was poignant to realize I was listening on 9/11/2013 and recalling that 9/11/1973 was the start of the coup d'etat that removed Allende and ushered in the era of the "disappeared" and "Senator for Life"/Dictator Nicholas Pinochet. Maya's Notebook is read in the voice of adolescent/young adult Maya Vidal, a "Gringetta" as she is called on the archipelago in southern Chile where she goes to regain her life after delving into Berkeley's drugs/sex/adolescent rebellion culture. I gave it 4 stars because it is at least that high. (I find I am getting stingier with my 5 stars but my ratings cluster high because I am choosy about my books--or else I don't waste my time on them.) I am about 2/3rd through it but I am marking it "read" so you can see my review and maybe be enticed into reading this jewel. I love Chile and have spent some time there--but more time reading and talking about it.(less)