The Masque of the Black Tulip continues the story of spies and lovers begun with The Secret History of the Pink Carnation. Henrietta Selwick (sister...moreThe Masque of the Black Tulip continues the story of spies and lovers begun with The Secret History of the Pink Carnation. Henrietta Selwick (sister to Richard Selwick, who was the spy known as The Purple Gentian) is corresponding with her cousin Jane (who is living in Paris and spying on Napoleon's government in the guise of the Pink Carnation). Got that? Through their coded correspondence, Jane sends messages of intrigue to the War Office in Britain. One such message notifies the War Office that the French have deployed their best and most dangerous spy, The Black Tulip, to London. A search for the spy follows.
Okay, without giving away anything, that is the bare bones of the plot. But that makes it sound a lot more serious than it is. Sure, the spying and disguises and coded messages do happen, but this book is pure, unadulterated, fun chick-lit. I raced through it, waiting to see if the Black Tulp is caught in time, but really, I just wanted to see who ends up in love with whom. The plot is fun, the characters are maybe not too well-developed, but they're fun too, and the pace is just right. If you don't take yourself or your books too seriously, this is an amusing, easy read. It would be great to read on the beach.(less)
Having just finished The Inferno and The Picture of Dorian Gray, I needed something frothy and fun. I've read the other two books in this series, so I...moreHaving just finished The Inferno and The Picture of Dorian Gray, I needed something frothy and fun. I've read the other two books in this series, so I knew this one should fit the bill. It did.
This time around, Letty Alsworthy finds herself in a very compromising position with her sister's suitor, Lord Geoffrey Pinchingdale. She also promptly finds herself married off to Geoff. He leaves for Ireland on their wedding night and the indomitable Letty follows him. She later finds out that Geoff is a spy working with the Pink Carnation to stop an uprising in Ireland.
That sounds very dry, but these books are a funny little delight to read. The dialogue is witty, the characters are always fun and likeable, and there's just the right balance of romance and action. I recommend them if you just need a fun little break.(less)
Mary Alsworthy, who faithful readers will remember as being the jilted sister in The Deception of the Emerald Ring, is living with her sister- and bro...moreMary Alsworthy, who faithful readers will remember as being the jilted sister in The Deception of the Emerald Ring, is living with her sister- and brother-in-law. As the woman widely believed to be the most beautiful in London society, she finds this unbearable. She should be the Viscountess, not her sister. When the Pink Carnation, through Lord Sebastian Vaughn, offers Mary the opportunity to win a little independence in exchange for some faithful service to the Crown, Mary jumps at the opportunity.
Fun fluff. That really sums these books up. But they are such fun fun fluff. I call them my slightly guilty pleasure. I try to tell myself that the historical fiction aspect redeems them a little, but that's not really true. There's probably technically no redeeming value to this series at all--except that I find myself at the very least slightly smiling through the whole book. That's worth something, isn't it?
This one was just as good as the others. Around page 150 I thought I had the whole thing figured out, so I was starting to get a little disappointed. It turns out that I didn't have a clue what was going on.
I have developed this phantom pain in my right eyebrow though. It seemed like someone was arching an eyebrow or raising a brow at least once on every page. Seriously. It's all well and good to give your characters mannerisms, but don't wear them out. Please.
In the current time, Eloise and Colin are finally starting to get somewhere. Their storyline is moving so slowly though that I really don't care. I can't wait to get back to early-19th-century England and see what's going on with the characters back then.
And speaking of characters--Letty was cute in the last book, but she got positively annoying in this one!
I recommend this for those needing a little--you guessed it--fun fluff.(less)
Really, probably 3.5 stars, but it was good enough for me to round it up instead of down.
The Somnambulist features Edward Moon, a conjurer most easily...moreReally, probably 3.5 stars, but it was good enough for me to round it up instead of down.
The Somnambulist features Edward Moon, a conjurer most easily compared to Sherlock Holmes, but with a freakish twist. His Watson is an 8-foot-tall mute man named--can you guess?--The Somnambulist. The pair are asked to investigate a bizarre murder in the seamier part of London at the beginning of the novel. Within pages, they have solved the murder. Or have they?
This was a quick, enjoyable read. The characters may have seemed a little like stock characters at first, but they almost always turned out to be something other than they appeared. The plot was well-paced and, for me anyway, the mystery was pretty unpredictable. But, be warned. I picked this up thinking that it might be like The Alienist but set in London with a few sideshow freaks. It starts out that way, but by the end, the book wanders into solid fantasy. That wasn't a problem for me because I am a huge fan of fantasy, but I know that's not the case for a lot of mystery fans. But it did go a little over the top for me, which is part of why it's 3.5 stars instead of 4.5. Also, I was left with a lot of unanswered questions. I like to have everything pretty tidily resolved at the end. I can't even figure out why the book is titled The Somnambulist instead of The Conjurer except that it sounds cooler.
If nothing else, read the first chapter of this book. It's only about a page long. Read it while you're browsing the bookstore or the library. This was the best first chapter I've read in a long time. Here's the first paragraph: "Be warned. This book has no literary merit whatsoever. It is a lurid piece of nonsense, convoluted, implausible, peopled by unconvincing characters, written in drearily pedestrian prose, frequently ridiculous and wilfully bizarre. Needless to say, I doubt you'll believe a word of it." I was solidly hooked after reading it, and you may find that you are too.(less)
Vicar General Thomas Cromwell is sending his man, Matthew Shardlake, to investigate a brutal murder. As he brings Reformation to England, Cromwell is...moreVicar General Thomas Cromwell is sending his man, Matthew Shardlake, to investigate a brutal murder. As he brings Reformation to England, Cromwell is trying to subtly force monasteries to "voluntarily" dissolve, and the man he sent to the monastery in Scarnsea has been killed. Shardlake needs to find the killer--and try to convince the abbot to close the monastery.
This was really good historical fiction. I was drawn into the story immediately. I can't claim to know much about the period, so I don't know how accurate it is. What I do know is that every time I picked this book back up, I was immediately transported to sixteenth-century England. I don't know how Sansom did it, but his descriptions left me feeling that I had just visited a cold, snowy, monastery on the coast, where the monks live a little too well and know more than they are telling.
Shardlake was hugely likable. He's a jaded, acerbic, lonely, humpback lawyer who is still somewhat naive. He fervently believes in Reformation, but he can't see that the road Cromwell is taking isn't necessarily in the best interests of the country.
The mystery was solid. I never had any idea what was going on until the very end. But once I found out, it all made sense and fit together.
My biggest complaint? The color puce is mentioned five times in the book. Who ever says "puce?" It really stood out to me and got on my nerves. Does the fact that I counted them give that away? But that's a tiny thing to complain about. I will definitely be reading the rest of this series.
I recommend this one to readers interested in Reformation England, fans of Umberto Eco's The Name of the Rose (although I've only seen the movie), and I think it would also work for those who liked Caleb Carr's The Alienist.(less)
Henrietta Dorrington's best bookish friend, Charlotte Lansdowne, stars in her own adventure in the latest installment in The Pink Carnation series. He...moreHenrietta Dorrington's best bookish friend, Charlotte Lansdowne, stars in her own adventure in the latest installment in The Pink Carnation series. Her childhood infatuation, Robert, Duke of Dovedale, has returned from India. But he's sending her decidedly mixed signals. Is he interested or not? Or is he involved in his own spy game?
Charlotte just isn't quite Henrietta, Letty, or even Mary. She spent much of the book just fantasizing about Robert. While interesting enough, I kept waiting for the comedy of misunderstandings and the adventure of French spies pitted against our faithful British crew to get started. About halfway through, things finally took off, Charlotte grew a backbone, and I got really interested. I think I finished the second half of the book in one night in bed, while it had taken me several days to get through the first half.
As for Robert--well, he just never felt very real to me. Since I mostly saw him through Charlotte's eyes, and he honestly wasn't very real to her either, I guess that's understandable. But he won't be competing with Miles for my affections anytime soon.
The humor that I've loved throughout the series still had me giggling like a schoolgirl, and I liked the historical backdrop of this novel. It's a few years later (I think), and I still can't say that I know anything about the period, but I can say that this American girl is a little more interested in "mad King George" than in Napoleon. Is it shameful for someone who reads as much historical fiction as I do to admit that?
I'm about to forget about Eloise and Colin. I've never been very interested in their present day story, but I did finally get curious about what was going on this time. Let's just say that Colin has been keeping secrets.
So really, this was three and a half stars, but I'll round up here, mostly because I love the series so much. Highly recommended to those who don't take their historical fiction too seriously and who don't mind some romance thrown in for good measure. Now I can't wait for the next in the series, The Betrayal of the Blood Lily to come out! Just about a month to go!(less)
Matthew Shardlake has been summoned by Archbishop Cranmer to assist with some law work as King Henry makes a royal progress through the rebellious nor...moreMatthew Shardlake has been summoned by Archbishop Cranmer to assist with some law work as King Henry makes a royal progress through the rebellious north. He must also try to keep a prisoner alive for later questioning. But conspiracies still abound in the area and Shardlake's life is endangered when he stumbles onto something.
Reading this felt like slogging through the mud created by the never-ending rain in the book. It just dragged on and on and on. Finally, in about the last hundred pages, the action picked up and everything started to get interesting.
I enjoyed reading more about Shardlake and Barak, but overall, I have a lot of problems with the book. There were a lot of typos that drove me crazy. The Bealknap case (remember that from Dark Fire?) is still. dragging. on. C'mon and let it die already! With Shardlake being in the barbarous north, he obviously doesn't really understand the dialect. The explanation of some of the more common terms was unbelievably clumsy. One character basically says out of the blue, "Oh, by the way, old boy, did you know that gate means street up here?" Yes, it really was that bad.
Reading this so soon after Ken Follett's The Pillars of the Earth was actually pretty interesting. In Pillars, we get to see how important the monasteries are and the hard work that goes into building a cathedral. In Sansom's books, the pendulum has swung the other way and they're being destroyed. I've never really thought too much about how much art, architecture, and history was lost in these kinds of purges, but the juxtaposition of the two books really brought that home for me.
I'll keep reading, and if you've read the others, I would recommend you do the same. It was still decent, and I do look forward to the next in the series. I just hope it's better.(less)
Matthew Shardlake has been asked to defend a young woman accused of the terrible murder of a child. The problem is that the girl refuses to speak in h...moreMatthew Shardlake has been asked to defend a young woman accused of the terrible murder of a child. The problem is that the girl refuses to speak in her own defense and time is running out. Luckily, Thomas Cromwell intervenes and gains Shardlake two more weeks to prepare a defense. In exchange, Matthew must find the secret to the recently rediscovered Greek Fire, a technology that promises to place England firmly in control of her own destiny.
For me, this was really as enjoyable a read as Dissolution. Shardlake is perhaps even more full of melancholy, doubt, and loneliness, but he hasn't quite lost his faith in either God or humanity. He sees innocence in the eyes of the accused murderess and sets out to prove it, despite the unpopularity of her case. She has already been tried and hanged in the court of public opinion, but Shardlake desperately wants to see justice done.
The one weakness for me was in the two plotlines. This could easily have been two separate books, but instead one book had the two stories jammed together. The deadline given for both adds to the urgency of the story, but that felt a bit like an artificial device added by the author for that very reason.
Overall, though, Sansom has created a great character in Matthew Shardlake and surrounded him with a few other characters that are more complex than meets the eye. Jack Barak is introduced in this book, and at first he appears to be a beautiful bully, but he quickly shows that he is much more than that.
In reading the author's notes at the end, it sounds like he has stayed as true to the period and history as possible. At the same time, he has taken something that was a bit of a mystery already and had fun with it. Something along the lines of, "Well, I know this didn't really cause that, but wouldn't it be interesting if it did?"
I would recommend this to readers who like their mysteries with a bit of history thrown in, or vice versa. This was a highly entertaining read and I look forward to reading the next in the series.(less)
Children are missing from Cambridge, the town's Jews have been blamed, and King Henry II is receiving less revenue while the Jews are in hiding. Clear...moreChildren are missing from Cambridge, the town's Jews have been blamed, and King Henry II is receiving less revenue while the Jews are in hiding. Clearly something must be done. Enter Adelia Aguilar. She has been trained at the world-renowned and forward-thinking school of medicine in Salerno, Italy. Her specialty? Corpses. She is a mistress of the art of death and the dead "speak" to her. She's called in to examine the body of the one child who has been found and, along with her friends, try to find the killer.
This was a page-turner for me, mostly because of Adelia. She feels completely real. She's super-intelligent but hopeless in society. She's great with her patients but clueless as to how to interact with them outside the examining room. She's a feminist in a time before the word was dreamed of. She tries to hold herself aloof from everyone, but her heart's too big for that and she ends up caring in spite of herself. She feels like someone I would like to know in real life.
The other characters are a great supporting cast. For the most part, they're reasonably well-rounded and I wound up caring about them too. My favorite was the little urchin, Ulff.
The mystery was solid. I did guess part of it, but not the whole thing. I did end up being very surprised by the end.
One thing that did bother me, and I'm not quite sure who to "blame" for this, is that this book takes place around the time that The Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett ended, but this one felt like it could have been centuries later. Maybe it was just me, but Follett's England under Henry II was a brutal, hopeless, scary place, and Franklin's England at the same time felt like it could have taken place under Henry VIII, much, much later. I don't know who got it right, but there was a huge difference in the feel of the technology and the lifestyles.
Another small thing is that the very last chapter felt like a history lesson tacked on. There was some balance with the beginning, because it began and ended with a disinterested person making observations about what he or she is seeing, but the very last page or two were just straight-up history. It was interesting, don't get me wrong, but it felt like that kind of thing should have gone into the author's notes at the end.
Those are small things though, and overall I really, really enjoyed the book. I highly recommend it to those who like historical mysteries, and I'll be picking up the second in the series. (less)
"I should have thought it obvious," I said impatiently, though even at that age I was aware that such things were not obvious to the majority of peopl...more"I should have thought it obvious," I said impatiently, though even at that age I was aware that such things were not obvious to the majority of people. "I see paint on your pocket-handkerchief, and traces on your fingers where you wiped it away. The only reason to mark bees that I can think of is to enable one to follow them to their hive. You are either interested in gathering honey or in the bees themselves, and it is not the time of year to harvest honey. Three months ago we had an unusual cold spell that killed many hives. Therefore I assume that you are tracking these in order to replenish your own stock."
Retired, fifty-four-year-old Sherlock Holmes is left speechless at this speech from fifteen-year-old Mary Russell. He realizes immediately that he has finally met a mind to match his own, and his retirement might not be quite as boring as he expected.
I haven't read any of Conan Doyle's work recently enough to be able to comment meaningfully on how well the Sherlock in The Beekeeper's Apprentice matches up to the "real" Sherlock. All I can say is that I enjoyed the originals and I enjoyed this one.
Mary is a rare heroine. She's ultra-intelligent, fiercely independent, funny, sharp-spoken, unafraid to get her hands dirty, and ultimately vulnerable.
Sherlock finds himself losing interest in everything around him until Mary comes into his life to both test his wits and learn from him. The pair, who, from the outside would appear to be aloof from everyone else, ultimately save each other.
There were several mysteries the two investigate throughout the book, from Mary's first attempt to solve a small local crime on her own, to the infinitely-bigger plot that almost proves to be the team's undoing. I think the mysteries were strong and would have done the original Sherlock proud, but, like I said, take that with a grain of salt coming from me.
What I mostly liked was the way the two worked together, and watching Mary grow and learn even as she taught Sherlock to rejoin the world. The dynamics between them are never easy but they are always interesting. Other characters obviously put in an appearance, and it was fun to check in on the affable Dr. Watson, but it was Mary and Sherlock's characters and their interactions that made this book for me.
If you aren't too much of a Sherlock purist, go ahead and pick this up. It was an interesting look at a couple of complicated minds and I truly enjoyed reading it. I'll be continuing on with the series.(less)
Miss Amelia Peabody is a confirmed spinster. Her father died and left her a comfortable inheritance and she has decided to start traveling to those an...moreMiss Amelia Peabody is a confirmed spinster. Her father died and left her a comfortable inheritance and she has decided to start traveling to those ancient sites they both loved. She acquires the lovely yet troubled Evelyn as a companion in Rome and she sets off to visit Egypt. There, she meets the Emerson brothers. Younger brother Walter is a nice lad, but the older Emerson? Has a towering temper. The group accidentally fall in together and begin investigating some mysterious appearances around the Emersons' archaeological dig.
I loved Amelia! In real life, I would probably chafe against her decisiveness and take-charge attitude, but safely on the page, she was great! She just ignores facts, people or attitudes that don't fit with what she's trying to do and goes about her business of leading everyone around. Fortunately, she's an intelligent woman, so her plans generally do work out for the best. Of course, she has a good heart under her tough exterior, and I was glad to see her friendship with Evelyn softening her up a little bit. I do love how she writes about Emerson. She calls him a big, hard-headed, stubborn bully every chance she gets, but when she gets close to him, she physically melts a little every time. She admits to it in her writing in moments of softness, then she goes on her merry way, arguing with him again.
Emerson was great too. I didn't feel like I got to know him quite as well as I would have liked in this first book of a series, but he's a good match for Amelia. He's just as stubborn, but he's also passionate about archaeology and quietly yet fiercely loyal. Amelia exasperates him to no end, but he acknowledges her as an equal companion.
The mystery part was not that great, and that's the biggest reason this got knocked down a star. I knew who and why, I just wasn't clear on how it fit together.
I had a lot of fun reading this and recommend it if you're looking for a character-driven light read. I giggled pretty frequently throughout the book, and I will definitely be picking up the next book in the series.(less)
Alexia Maccon, née Tarrabotti, is awakened one morning by her husband bellowing out orders and questions. He doesn't take time to answer her questions...moreAlexia Maccon, née Tarrabotti, is awakened one morning by her husband bellowing out orders and questions. He doesn't take time to answer her questions, but of course she finds out what's going on later. Something or someone has found a way to completely negate whatever magic makes supernatural beings, well--supernatural. This has London in an uproar. When the phenomenon seems to be traveling north to Scotland, Lord Maccon sets out in that direction too. He wants to investigate further, plus he needs to check in with his old pack. Alexia just can't be left behind, so one dirigible ride later, she joins him up there to find the pack in disarray.
Another fun entry into The Parasol Protectorate! I swear I smiled and giggled the whole way through. Alexia is just as hardheaded and Lord Maccon is just as Alpha. Yum-mmmeeeee. *Waggling eyebrows lasciviously* Alexia is settling into her role as the Woolsey pack's Alpha female with ease. It's a role she was practically made for. There's one confrontation with a member of the pack who has just returned from India that left me laughing. She handled him as only Alexia can. She manages to get herself into even more trouble this time around, believe it or not.
A strange French inventor, Madame Lefoux, makes an appearance too. We're never quite sure what her role is in everything, but she had me hopelessly intrigued. She is to Alexia as Q is to Bond. Talk about a tricked-out parasol! She hooks Alexia up! MacGyver would be jealous of this thing! She's wonderfully eccentric and I couldn't help but love her even as I wondered about her loyalties.
Ivy Hisselpenny and Alexia's sister Felicity have a much-larger role in this book, and all I have to say about that is, "Poor Tunstell. He didn't stand a chance." Ivy's hats are even more garish, Felicity is even bitchier, but their catty spats with each other and Alexia are priceless.
I had an idea what was going on with the mystery and wondered why no one even thought to consider it until the end.
Speaking of the ending...
That's really what knocked this back a star. It's a cliffhanger, it came out of the blue, (Well, sort of. I knew part of what was going on), and it relied heavily on miscommunication. I know miscommunication happens but it irritates the heck out of me when a whole new plot turns on it.
Still, highly recommended for fans of this kind of funny, character-driven, supernatural mystery. I'm anxiously awaiting Blameless. Darn cliffhangers.(less)
I have waited entirely too long to write this review--almost a year.
I absolutely loved this story of brilliant little Flavia de Luce. She is going...moreI have waited entirely too long to write this review--almost a year.
I absolutely loved this story of brilliant little Flavia de Luce. She is going to be intimidating when she grows up. Wait. What am I talking about? She already is intimidating at the tender age of 11 or so. She's a brilliant scientist with an insatiable hunger for knowledge, she's a bratty younger sister, she has a truly wicked sense of humor, and she doesn't see any limits in what she can do. You go, girl.
I had absolutely no idea who had committed this murder or how everything was going to tie together. The story twisted so much on itself that I wondered if the author even had any idea where he was going. In the end, it was obvious that he did.
I listened to this as an audiobook and I eventually came to love Jayne Entwistle's narration. It was touch and go for a bit, I admit. She came across as trying entirely too hard to sound like a young girl, and her rising and falling tone of voice led to some ear-splitting pitches at first. I came around though and now I will be sure to listen to Flavia's future adventures as well.
For those of you who have read Shirley Jackson's We Have Always Lived in the Castle and loved Merricat Blackwood, I think you will love Flavia de Luce as well. I kept picturing scenes of these two diabolical girls together and I have to say, I wanted to be in on the mischief they would inevitably make.(less)
Amelia Peabody and Emerson have married and had a son, Ramses. They've decided to stay home in England with him and live a quiet life, at least until...moreAmelia Peabody and Emerson have married and had a son, Ramses. They've decided to stay home in England with him and live a quiet life, at least until he's older. They're both going slowly crazy. Emerson has been reduced to practically begging the neighbor to let him dig in his barrow. Then an opportunity in Egypt presents itself that they just can't turn down. Leaving Ramses with his aunt and uncle, they take off.
Someone is determined to undermine the expedition. Emerson was called in because the original financial backer of the dig was found dead under mysterious circumstances and the chief archaeologist has disappeared. The mysterious events continue under Emerson's supervision, as do the deaths.
I didn't like this book quite as much as the first, but I still enjoyed myself immensely. I remembered how much I like Amelia Peabody, but I had forgotten why. I knew she was a practical woman who had no qualms about taking charge but I forgot how often she messes things up. Not that she would ever admit it. But she's fierce in her love of Egypt and Emerson and she unintentionally left me giggling.
The rest of the characters were a hoot too. I adore Emerson and, despite his legendary temper, he must be a bit of a saint to put up with Amelia. He orchestrated one scene that had me howling with laughter. I didn't know Emerson had it in him! Madame Berengeria, a crazy widow who attaches herself to their party, positively cracked me up. I would have been tempted to wrap my hands around her neck in person but on the page--! I love that Emerson is practically terrified of her. There are several young men flocking around Madame Berengeria's daughter but I have to admit that I had trouble keeping their names straight. One was a persistent reporter who manufactured news when he needed it. I didn't like him at all at first but I came around. The other two were kind of forgettable until one sets himself well apart late in the book. Oh, and while I'm at it, I cannot wait to see more of little Ramses. He may be the match of Amelia and Emerson combined. I can't imagine what kind of holy terror he's going to be.
I never had any idea how the mystery was going to turn out, I just enjoyed the wit as I turned the pages.
I recommend this series for anyone who likes a healthy dose of humor mixed in with their mysteries and an indomitable female lead.(less)
Arabella Dempsey has just seen all her hopes dashed. She's been a companion to her aunt since she was a child and fully expected to inherit from her....moreArabella Dempsey has just seen all her hopes dashed. She's been a companion to her aunt since she was a child and fully expected to inherit from her. She realizes that isn't going to happen when her aunt marries a much younger man--the very man that Arabella has been fantasizing about. Does it get any crueler? But Arabella is nothing if not determined and she determines to make her own way in the world and goes to work as a teacher in an all-girls school. Her first day there she literally bumps into everyone's favorite bumbling idiot, Reginald Fitzhugh. You might know him as Turnip. Turnip because he has the brains of one. But Turnip has a big heart and a younger sister and a secret message in a Christmas pudding, and it all adds up to one very fun book.
I confess that I haven't paid a whole lot of attention to Turnip in the other books, but I did love the big doof in this book. He's handsome, and not the brightest crayon, but he has a gigantic heart. He's wrapped around his younger sister's finger, he's rich but doesn't even think about class as a general rule. Everything he's thinking moves across his face, and he's not afraid to defend a lady's honor. Heck, he's willing to play an even bigger idiot and thus put his life on the line for his country! A gentleman indeed!
The action in this book takes place in between The Seduction of the Crimson Rose and The Temptation of the Night Jasmine. Well, it actually overlaps with Night Jasmine. It was interesting to see some of those events from a different perspective.
Oh, and another thing. Jane Austen as a character. Need I say more?
I always read Lauren Willig's books with a gigantic goofy grin on my face and finish them up satisfied and yet looking for more. I don't know if there's really any bigger praise to give a book. This series might not rock my world, but they are some of my favorite "lighter" books. Just go read them if you haven't, and if you have, make sure you read Turnip and Arabella's story. (less)
Zora Neale Hurston grew up in Eatonville, FL, "the first incorporated all-black township in the United States." In this fictional account of an incide...moreZora Neale Hurston grew up in Eatonville, FL, "the first incorporated all-black township in the United States." In this fictional account of an incident in her childhood, Eatonville at first seems to be idyllic. Sure, the residents aren't very well off, but they're safe and free to be whoever they'd like. After a headless corpse is found by the railroad tracks, Zora and her friend Carrie's perspectives are changed forever.
This was a very fast read. Zora herself is a delight. She reminds me a bit of Anne Shirley in that she names everything around her and has her own mythology to explain the world. She's the leader of this little group of friends and she keeps friends Carrie and Teddy on their toes.
Zora and Carrie get a little too caught up in the events surrounding the murder at the train tracks. They've been on the edges of a lot of the events leading up to the event and curious Zora is trying her best to put all the pieces together. Seeing the world through their innocence, and seeing them just starting to lose that innocence, feels very real. They don't have the experience to really understand what they're seeing at first, but they gain that experience the hard way.
The novel becomes a good introduction to race relations in the US. I can't imagine that it would be an easy read for youngsters, but these kinds of books never are. Nevertheless, it is important that we know our history. The authors don't shy away from alluding to lynchings (note that I did write "alluding to"--nothing is spelled out) or using "the N word," so if your child isn't ready for that, it might be best to save this book for later.
All of that makes the book sound very heavy and depressing. It's mostly not. Zora and Carrie have to deal with some grown-up issues, but they also have fun playing and getting licorice and just being children.
This is a very well-done book that I enjoyed. I recommend it for anyone, but it would be an especially good conversation-starter for parents with children old enough to handle the subject.(less)