Whether you are familiar with the Praying Indian towns of pre-colonial Massachusetts and early Harvard or not, this is a deftly nuan...moreI loved this book.
Whether you are familiar with the Praying Indian towns of pre-colonial Massachusetts and early Harvard or not, this is a deftly nuanced, beautiful, and well-researched story of Native Americans and English colonists learning to live together in the 1600's. The story is told from the vantage point of a fictional young girl who is at once able to impart an insider's view of the English as well as an outsider's sympathies and keen inferences as a female and friend of the Native Americans.
I've been leading field trips around Natick, MA, the first Praying Indian town established by John Eliot for the past couple years. I've also researched archival materials on the Indian College and colonial campus foodways on the campus as a student at Harvard so the lines of history pulled together in this story really hit home for me. I was impressed with how Brooks was able to (quite successfully in my view) intertwine a fictional narrative with historical fact and individuals. She really hits all the right notes and in a respectful, vibrant, and engaging manner. Though the title refers to Caleb, telling this story from another voice allows for fact and fiction to be woven together in such a way as to create an incredibly real and reliable account of this incredible period and place in history without putting too many imagined words in the mouth of actual persons. If only more works of historical fiction were as well researched and written as this!(less)
I thought this book would be an entertaining light read for the train in contrast with the density of Ulrich's "The Age of Homespun" which I am readin...moreI thought this book would be an entertaining light read for the train in contrast with the density of Ulrich's "The Age of Homespun" which I am reading for a class on Colonial America at Harvard right now. How perfect that Ulrich is even referenced in the postscript! Well, it was an entertaining enough light read, but I couldn't understand why Howe felt the need to dumb down her main character so much, villanizing archivists and librarians along the way, and giving a somewhat banal representation of the research process. Honestly, someone who has come so far in studying Colonial America at the graduate level is not going to be surprised by things like "receipt/recipes" or witch bottles and the like. I assume this faux stupidity was for the benefit of the uninitiated reader, but I found it disappointing that she backed away from a stronger/smarter female who knew her field and who could have really brought the reader along for a stronger and smarter rip-roaring fictional historical thriller. Maybe I need to go in expecting more cheese, but I think a book can be that without dumbing down the scholarly world/historical facts as much as this book did. (less)
I was really looking forward to reading this book. I LOVED her first book "The Historian" and that had taken me by surprise as I don't read about vamp...moreI was really looking forward to reading this book. I LOVED her first book "The Historian" and that had taken me by surprise as I don't read about vampires (and actually had no idea that's what the book was about when I picked it up from a friend). I was swept away by the haunting descriptions, the thrill of a well-researched scholarly chase injected with imagination and myth, the intricate detective work to unravel a "historical" mystery. It seemed that The Swan Thieves promised all those things but around the subject of art history instead. Being an art historian myself, what could be better? Well, it turns out those elements of the book just get lost in the unending character narratives. It's just all about them and their emotional development and only ties in to the larger mystery on rare occasions after you've started to get bored and wonder and hope that the engrossing mystery story line will eventually get its due as it aught to. There's nothing wrong with all the character development, it's basically good writing. But in her first novel, it all tied right back into the mystery. That's a good thing for cohesiveness and for adding depth while still being able to stir the ole potboiler to it's climax. In this book though, it gets superfluous as there are a lot of character details that don't seem to have to do with anything whatsoever. And that's a pity because I think this author really does have a talent and underneath it all, there is a gripping story that needs telling. THAT is a book I'd like to read sometime.
I'm a little more than half-way through the audiobook version and I'm hoping this picks up soon because there's just so much potential for a good book here.
2/18/12 Upon finishing, I have to say my mind didn't change. If only the whole book were as good as the opening and closing scene, sigh.(less)
We first came across this book a few years ago in a cottage we stayed at mid-Cape. It was the best guide in the stack and we found it came in really h...moreWe first came across this book a few years ago in a cottage we stayed at mid-Cape. It was the best guide in the stack and we found it came in really handy for finding obscure beaches, all types of restaurants, trails, campgrounds, and sites of historic interest. Later, when we moved to MA, we purchased a copy of the 8th edition and have since used it on many day and weekend trips to the cape and have found some of our favorites spots with this book.
It is an incredibly comprehensive guide and is organized quite clearly with listings for just about any and every place on the cape and islands...not a small feat. This is it's main strength and you can find a wealth of information on places to eat, things to do, places to explore, as well as suggested itineraries for each area of the cape that highlight the best things in each town/village/etc. I'm not one for following guidebook itineraries but the info has come in handy when we only have a small amount of time and want to find the most interesting thing in a specific area.
It is a slightly outdated edition and I have not reviewed more recent ones, but we have occasionally run into instances where posted hours differed from that which was listed in the book. I mainly chalk that up to the Cape being the Cape with odd summer hours for smaller family run venues. The main weakness of the book however really lies with it's maps: they're terrible. Depend on them only to situate yourself mentally and buy a good road map to actually get around as the maps in this book are very poorly drawn and inaccurate, some just leaving out entire main roads and intersections, much to our chagrin when we are attempting to navigate new areas.(less)
I'm not in the habit of buying glossy cookbooks from Williams-Sonoma as they are usually more inspiration and fluff than anything else but this book i...moreI'm not in the habit of buying glossy cookbooks from Williams-Sonoma as they are usually more inspiration and fluff than anything else but this book is an unparalleled exception. It's smart, it's steeped in ingredients that are good for more than just your stomach, and it's gorgeous photo styling actually does the recipes justice, not the other way round.
Sara Kate Gillingham-Ryan is the writer behind Apartment Therapy's The Kitchn and I'd been getting their weekly emails for a while before this book was published. When I heard about it, it seemed nice enough but I was not inspired to buy it. We were trying to decide what to use the last of our wedding gift certificates for though and I ended up flipping through this at the store. I was hooked and we took it home. It's been a while since I found a cookbook that I actually wanted to read and drool over this much and it has inspired so many great conversations about the kind of food we eat and serve.
Many of the recipes are quite simple, inspired by the quality and unique combination of ingredients rather than technique. We tried our first recipe from it this weekend (the radicchio/endive/buttermilk salad) and it tasted just as good as I'd imagined. I love that the book is geared towards entertaining but I love the recipes so much that I wish some were written out for smaller numbers of people too. So far, we just split the dish between two nights/lunch leftovers for the two of us and you can adapt things on some of them to make less...it's just too good to save for only when you have other people around!(less)