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
Whether you are familiar with the Praying Indian towns of pre-colonial Massachusetts and early Harvard or not, this is a deftly nuanI 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!...more
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 readinI 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. ...more
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 vampI 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....more