‘Twenty-one. The number of men who would pay for his death. As a woman she loved the poetry in that equation; as a man she loved the rage.’
Libby and‘Twenty-one. The number of men who would pay for his death. As a woman she loved the poetry in that equation; as a man she loved the rage.’
Libby and Arden are newlyweds but a mere month into their lives together, the Civil War breaks out and Arden leaves to join the ranks of the Confederate army. When Libby hears that a massive battle took place nearby involving Arden’s unit she sets out to verify his survival. Her older sister Josephine travels with her and after they split up to search is the one that finds Arden with a massive hole in his stomach, dying slowly. By the time Libby finds them, Arden is still warm but long gone. Filled with a foreign rage, Libby cuts off her hair intent on joining the Confederates. She swears to take twenty-one Yankee lives for the twenty-one years that Arden was on this earth. Josephine, finding out her intentions, resolves herself to go with her if only to protect her from her dangerous plan.
The writing team for this novel is two sisters; one is a bestselling novelist and the other possesses a history degree. The result is a fluid story that is not just poignant but leaves you feeling well-informed of this time period. Sisters of Shiloh is written primarily from the point of view of Libby and Josephine who become Thomas and Joseph when they enlist. It reflects their struggles from being simple teenage girls to adapting to life as a soldier not only with the constant fear of dying but of keeping the secret of their gender safe. Josephine only joined the army to protect her sister and has no intentions of doing harm to anyone if she can help it. She’s a simple girl who has never been in love but slowly finds herself falling for Wesley Abeline (and he begins falling for “her” although his feelings remain conflicted as he’s not aware of her true gender). Libby’s mindset becomes darker as the book progresses with her hearing Arden’s voice in her head, urging her in battle to kill again and again. She eventually begins to actually see him as well, with his stomach still bleeding and flies that cover the wound. At first it was hard to differentiate the sisters voices but by the end they had developed their own separate identities so much that each section was clearly definable. Josephine remained sorrowful at her inability to save her sister from her own mind and Libby remained in conflict with her true nature and the impressionable effects of her husband even after death.
‘Arden, though, was more than a name. He was a presence, an exhortation, the heaving breaths of his spirit keeping up with her, his voice shouting that unearthly Rebel yell right along with her.’
Women that conceal themselves as men and join the war effort (typically in the Civil War) seems to be a new trend in literature these days as this is the second release I’ve read recently. I Shall Be Near to You was the previous one I read and is told from the point of view of a woman that joins the Union army, rather than the Confederates. Both books succeed in presenting a side of the war that was apparently quite common but vastly absent from the history books. Reading about these women that sacrificed their safety and voluntarily went into battle (even when they weren’t allowed to) was shocking and impressive even if it wasn’t exactly smart. Libby and Josephine went into the war not knowing how to shoot a gun yet they persevered and lasted a whole eight months in the war when some men didn’t last a few weeks. This may be considered an ‘unconventional’ side of wartime but it’s a side that is truly admirable that I’d love to see more of. Other related reads I intend on picking up include Neverhome by Laird Hunt, Liar, Temptress, Soldier, Spy: Four Women Undercover in the Civil War by Karen Abbott and This Side of the River by Jeffrey Stayton.
I received this book free from the Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review....more
‘Laying there on our bed is Jeremiah’s work shirt where I left it, the map unfolded beside it. And then like a hornets’ nest in the hot dust that you‘Laying there on our bed is Jeremiah’s work shirt where I left it, the map unfolded beside it. And then like a hornets’ nest in the hot dust that you almost don’t see until it’s too late, but once you have, you can’t not see it for the buzzing in and out of the crack in the dirt crust, the idea of it just comes to me.’
It’s 1862, and the country is in the midst of the Civil War that goes on for another 3 years. Jeremiah Wakefield, a New Yorker, has dreams of someday owning his own farm and being able to take care of Rosetta and their future family and the Army’s enlistment bonus would be exactly what he needs to do that. Rosetta is a tomboy and helps out on her fathers farm but when she finds out that Jeremiah is leaving her for the war, she insists that if he’s intent on going off to war that he’s going to marry her first. They end up marrying and Jeremiah leaves shortly afterwards. Rosetta finds that life just isn’t the same with him gone and sitting alone in their house day in and day out worried about his safety is more than she can take. So she chops off her hair and enlists in her husband’s unit as “Ross Stone”.
Rosetta was the most incredibly memorable and courageous character. I Shall Be Near to You showcases one woman of this time period that defied gender expectations but Rosetta was not the only woman out there fighting alongside husbands, brothers, or fathers. In the Author’s Note, McCabe states that "...the fictional Rosetta’s experience as a soldier is an amalgamation of the experiences of the more than two hundred women who are known to have enlisted [...]". It’s an aspect of war, not just during the Civil War either, that is not often explored and it was so fantastic to read this beautifully written story bringing these women’s stories to life, women who put their lives on the line when they didn’t have to.
McCabe’s time spent researching this period is evident from her descriptions of the camp sites set up, to the foods, and of the deep seated feeling of dread these men (and women) were experiencing when marching into battle. Rosetta’s sacrifice and dedication to her husband is truly inspirational and you’ll be hard pressed to forget their ardent love story. Skillfully constructed and masterfully executed, if you are a fan of historical fiction novels and especially Civil War centered novels, this is a must read. A most impressive debut novel, I eagerly await more from McCabe....more
‘This was Polvarth, a place I’d vowed never to return to, yet which I saw, in my mind, every day. It was my idea. I closed my eyes as the memories rush‘This was Polvarth, a place I’d vowed never to return to, yet which I saw, in my mind, every day. It was my idea. I closed my eyes as the memories rushed back. We did it all by ourselves.’
Jenni Clark is a ghostwriter that takes the ghosts of a persons past and molds them into a story. Her most recent commission is Klara, a woman that survived after being confined as a child in a camp in the midst of World War II. Klara currently resides in a town called Polvarth, a town that Jenni spent time there and where the ghosts of her own past currently reside. The opportunity presented to her in this job though is enough to make her willing to finally face those ghosts after all these years.
Jenni has run into trouble with her relationship to Rick; he wants to have children and she does not. The two agree that maybe this trip to Polvarth will give each of them a chance to reflect on their lives together and hopefully help them to work things out. The issue behind her refusal to have children stems from a childhood incident that she’s never told him, or anyone for that matter. The tragedy is one she blames herself for and it isn’t until Klara shares her own story does she realize how similar the two are, and how both women need to find it in their hearts to finally forgive themselves in order to truly move on. Jenni’s story may have been mostly a side-story but it was still a vital piece of the whole story that was interwoven and resolved beautifully.
Stories about World War II, especially when they are centered around a concentration camp, are some of the hardest stories for me to read yet I’m completely incapable of passing one up. They are typically all stories about general devastation but Klara’s story adds a piece of history to WWII that I didn’t previously know much about: the Japanese invasion of the Dutch colony of Java where Klara grew up. The natives of the island were left in peace but any and all European residents of the island were forced into concentration camps. Her story details being separated from family, the incessant degradation, the back-breaking work, the hunger, the sickness, and inevitably the death. They were constantly forced to travel on foot to new camps which were generally worse than the camp they left behind. Even after the war was finally over and they were no longer being held against their will at the camps, they were forced to stay when the natives wished to cause them harm for what happened to their country at the hands of the Japanese. It was of course incredibly painful to read but Shadows Over Paradise did a brilliant job at bringing this unforgettable time in history to life.
I received this book free from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review....more
My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars I received this book free from Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or theMy rating: 3.5 of 5 stars I received this book free from Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
‘The box she had carefully constructed about herself would fall apart. And she didn’t know if she could bear standing out in the open, in the harsh wind, without the comforting warmth of those walls she had built to shut out everything she didn’t like or understand.’
In the early 1930′s, Hitler’s rise to power as the undisputed leader of the National Socialist German Workers’ Party continues. The country is in ruin after the financial crisis and the people were drawn to the promise of changes that Hitler vowed to make as soon as he’s elected Chancellor of Germany. He has up until now kept his true intentions for the Jewish people hidden under a thick coat of gloss, but the truth is starting to come out bit by bit. Gretchen Müller grew up knowing nothing but love for ‘Uncle Adolf’ after her father died preventing an assassination attack on Hitler. When new information is brought to her attention that her fathers death isn’t all as it appears, everything she has ever believed has to be reevaluated.
‘He had said his opponents were flung cross every corner of the city, barely discernible, like a spiderweb-until you tossed water on the gossamer net and there your opponents were, glistening like diamonds, brilliantly bright and unmistakable.’
Gretchen Müller’s beliefs in the National Socialist Party run deep, yet her father’s death hit her hard and she still misses him dearly. Her continued suffering over his loss manages to be the chink in her belief system and when a young Jewish reporter named Daniel Cohen approaches her about the possibility that his death was actually murder, everything in her life begins to crumble. The historical detailing was at times excessive but really manages to set the scene well. It’s clear that the time period was well-researched and it all felt authentic despite the obvious fictional additions. While I didn’t see the likelihood of a Jewish reporter taking the chance to approach Hitler’s ‘golden-girl’, I did feel that Gretchen’s change of mind as she uncovers more evidence of her fathers murder was genuine and believable.
The murder mystery was hands down the best part of this novel. There were scenes of gripping intensity when Gretchen and Daniel would creep through the shadows to uncover necessary information to expose her fathers murderer. The personal scenes between Gretchen and Hitler were chilling and while I have read many books regarding this time period, I had yet to read one where Hitler has a starring role, showing his disturbing nature clearly. Also frightening was Gretchen’s ghastly brother who shared many characteristics of Hitler himself. A warning to you animal lovers, there is a severely heartbreaking scene that I wish I was able to mentally prepare for.
My one disappointment was the romance. While I’m all for a good forbidden love story, and this one was certainly forbidden, I didn’t feel the feels unfortunately. Their love isn’t instantaneous, however, I felt we learned much more about Gretchen and not enough about Daniel to get properly attached to his character. Gretchen’s feelings regarding Daniel felt clunky and while I would normally expect this considering her ingrained beliefs towards Jews, it felt like her change of heart came far too quickly.(view spoiler)[Add in the fact that the ‘I love you’s’ came FAR too soon. (hide spoiler)]
The complete lack of interest in the romance managed to throw a wrench in the entire story for me but thankfully there was an incredibly interesting murder mystery for me to follow instead. Prisoner of Night and Fog is a fantastic look into the time period from the unaccustomed German perspective. Witnessing Hitler’s rise in power was especially disheartening as we all already know of what’s to come. The ending sets up the next book nicely and I’m interested to see how the author continues handling this historical time period.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more