The mystery unravels in a clever way, even if some of it is clear from early on. The film noir style narrative seemed heavy-handed and was something IThe mystery unravels in a clever way, even if some of it is clear from early on. The film noir style narrative seemed heavy-handed and was something I'd tired of by the end, but I did appreciate the depth and richness of the overall story of the environs of New York itself. It felt as though the author was peeling away any modern notions about the city one detail at a time in a way that made the streets come alive for me. I would've enjoyed exploring them more if not for my mixed feelings about the characters themselves (mainly the main character Timothy who seems an impossibly frustrating mix of straight-laced/rebel/prude/experienced-beyond-his-years/egotistical/living in the shadows of self-doubt)....more
I appreciated that in many ways, this was a piece of historical fiction that did not betray the convoluted nature of humanity for the sake of plot. II appreciated that in many ways, this was a piece of historical fiction that did not betray the convoluted nature of humanity for the sake of plot. I have to admit I'm a bit confused by some of the reviews saying this book fizzled out for them and involved too many subplots that didn't quite pan out. On the contrary, I found it to have a nice mix of characters that wove in and out of each other's stories—one placed at each pivotal point of society to round out various perspectives on the larger historical narrative that is unfolding. You really do have to keep reading to see how that works though. Vantrease doesn't try to create perfect heroes, but rather lets the dual nature of individual souls become the case study for her story to play out upon.
The thing is, this WAS a pretty dramatic time. There is a lot at stake for people from all levels of society. And yes, there are some viewpoints in the book that feel more modern, sometimes stretching it a bit in order to connect with the modern lay reader, but I think it's wrong to assume that everyone in "ye olden days" was dowdy/prudish/scary conservative. I mean, there had to have been people who didn't agree with the church and had a more progressive/enlightened view of spirituality or else such a religious/political uprising would not have gained traction. Not everyone who felt that way could/should have put pen to paper, but it feels short-sighted to think they weren't part of the story at all of affected by historical events. In order to crack open such a story with so many moving parts, you're going to need some characters that stand in for basic concepts (the less substantial younger characters for example who tend to only see one version of events/themselves) and those who give voice to a more complex, and sometimes modern, range (Julian/Kathryn/Finn).
This, for me, made for a more truthful, and therefore more meaningful, investigation of how the larger spiritual, religious, and political movements of the 14th century played out in the lives of individuals; how the unfolding of a big historical picture could have actually affected individuals at various levels and pockets of society. The family drama can get a bit soap-operatic at times, but it seems like that's too be expected to a certain extent with historic fiction (and btw, since when were Follet's books NOT like that?!). It's not meant to be non-fiction, so don't read/review it as such.
Not necessarily my favorite book ever, but, for me, the way that the author wove together strong research with very flawed characters and a bit of "salacious" drama, made this story more engaging and complex....more
I decided to read this because I am currently working for a textile conservation firm with offices in one of the old mill buildings in Northern MA. II decided to read this because I am currently working for a textile conservation firm with offices in one of the old mill buildings in Northern MA. I thought the subject and setting of the book sounded perfect for me and intriguing. I also hoped it would shed a bit of light on what shaped the spaces I now inhabit. Coming from a bestselling author, perhaps my expectations were too high. To echo another reviewer of this book, I hate giving poor reviews, "since anyone writing and publishing a book is a huge accomplishment." That being said, I just can't bring myself to rate this higher.
The writing is at a pretty low reading level and the plot is moved along some very base surface lines of emotion without really exploring the depths of the issues presented. The romance is pretty unbelievable though the thing that made reading it most difficult was the complete lack of character development and the cheesy, stereotypical dialogue. Wow, it was painful at times. I finished it because I really wanted it to get better. Given what sounded like a great plot set-up and environmental backdrop, I think the author really missed a chance to dig into the history of the Lowell mills and the character's lives.
P.S. Did anyone else notice this is basically a watered-down sugary version of Gaskell's great North and South novel?...more