The era is fascinating, from 1936 through WWII, during the reign of King George VI, who was the last Emperor of India and the first Head of the CommonThe era is fascinating, from 1936 through WWII, during the reign of King George VI, who was the last Emperor of India and the first Head of the Commonwealth. Kurinji Flowers touches on many of the social and political issues, including the fading of an empire, the rights of indigenous people, and the damage that prejudice and self-righteousness can inflict on humanity. Heady stuff, indeed. Although the beginning was rough, and the writing would benefit from further pruning and polishing, I found the characters were vivid, and story quite compelling. I'm reminded of Doris Lessing's Martha Quest in her Children of Violence series. The imprint of the European empires continues to this day. On a positive note, one finds the hero/heroine in books are most often opposed to oppression. Clare Flynn gave her protagonist the courage to question social norms and become a hero within, yet despite, her constraints. ...more
An enjoyable read, especially at the beginning. Sadly, I now have to compare historical novels to Memoirs of Hadrian and most anything by Conn IgguldeAn enjoyable read, especially at the beginning. Sadly, I now have to compare historical novels to Memoirs of Hadrian and most anything by Conn Iggulden, and Hilary Mantel. That's a tough crowd. The bar has been set high. The strength in this novel is in the narrative voice. The setting is sketched, as are many of the characters who appear like a Who's Who of the time period. Others, like Machiavelli were better, but still mainly caricatures. The women, although having to work from the sidelines, were interesting in motivation and cunning. After a bit of a drag in the middle, the end kicks into gear and settles festering scores. This is not meant as a historical romance, but love comes into play as a powerful motivator. So, while I recommend this novel, I was not as absorbed as in other historical fictions....more
Oh, well done! Well researched, well written,and well, I found the story fascinating. Amazingly, the only real action is at the end, but I was hooked Oh, well done! Well researched, well written,and well, I found the story fascinating. Amazingly, the only real action is at the end, but I was hooked on the court intrigue: whispered conversations and small episodes (with implications!). The dialogue, especially, was witty and meaningful. Descriptions--poetic. The prose was a pleasure--such talent, I'm envious. This second installment of Thomas Cromwell is shorter and more tightly written than Wolf Hall (which I also enjoyed).
Among the themes are revenge and the abuse of power. Cromwell, who I had grown a bit fond of in Wolf Hall, shows his true colors. As a commoner among the nobles, his position is tenuous except for his relationship to Henry VIII--whose affection is fickle, at best. Near the end, when blood is about to be shed and a lot of it, I was fascinated by the voices of reason who recommended less dramatic ways for Henry to have his way. But then, the laws and expectations of the English people, and nobility in particular, twisted all possibilities beyond rationality. Isn't it true, even today, that many (re)actions on the world stage appear insane, yet governments have difficult times escaping an insane trajectory? Actions spawned by emotions are blind to alternatives. Cromwell was driven by revenge, which relegated his more noble works to the sidelines. I'm looking forward to the third installment of Mantel's trilogy....more
Martha Quest. The name is appropriate. During this work, and the previous novel, I disliked Martha. Every gentle or humane action, or emotion, is crus Martha Quest. The name is appropriate. During this work, and the previous novel, I disliked Martha. Every gentle or humane action, or emotion, is crushed, either by the object, or by Martha's own determination to avoid sentimentality. She identifies frailty, and carves it away, either by laughter, or self-discipline. This determination makes her a cold mother, a shallow friend, and a temporary wife. I hoped she would allow herself one carefree, emotional indulgence. But no. Even an affair she intends to have is measured and without delusions. Youthful idealism bobs to the surface at times, but doesn't last. Martha is thirsty for passion and a sense of purpose, but no cause, or person, can carry the burden of her idealism for long. So, I did not like her, but I was fascinated by her internal quest, and her reactions to the society that developed during British colonization of Africa.
By the end, I changed in my opinion. I found an odd respect for Martha. She is true to her principles, even when being so proves to be difficult. Youth is less fearful of the results of their actions, so her courage is fueled by optimism and self-confidence. She is tempted by sentimentality, such as the desire to stay with her child, but she gives up a life of security. Irresponsible? Yes but the child will be well tended, and Martha acknowledged that the child, Caroline, would be better off without her. In the real world, I would criticize a mother who abandons her child, but not one that leaves an unsatisfactory marriage. Martha has a tendency to go with the flow, then to become highly critical. She has an inner strength and sense of conviction that is rare in that she finally decides to take action. Her insights are interesting. My plan was to intersperse other novels before continuing the series. Is it a surprise that my mind has changed?...more
I have nothing but praise for this work. It is poetic, brutal, and empathetic--a reflection of the arrogance of the time, ghosts of which are active a I have nothing but praise for this work. It is poetic, brutal, and empathetic--a reflection of the arrogance of the time, ghosts of which are active among us today. I picked the novel up in hope of understanding what it means to be a minority, mistreated, and enslaved--despite declarations of enlightenment and a prohibition of slavery. I can see why sensitivity to prejudices needs to be maintained, lest we forget how calloused, cruel, greedy, and dreadful people can be towards one another. Kind souls shine brighter, but are not without their flaws. I highly recommend this novel, important, and tragic because the Hottentot Venus endured such a life. ...more
King Leopold II of Belgium exploited and ruined the Congo between 1885 and 1908--just over 100 years ago. Eleven million people were killed, not for iKing Leopold II of Belgium exploited and ruined the Congo between 1885 and 1908--just over 100 years ago. Eleven million people were killed, not for ideology of any kind, but for pursuit of one man's personal greed. Leopold would not have been able to accomplish this heinous crime alone. He required explorers, government and military personnel, and multitudes of other men and women to silently witness and/or participate in atrocities that reeked with brutality and racism. I, and many others, knew nothing of the history of the Congo and the savagery and inhumanity of 'civilized' nations who participated in it. Adam Hochschild doesn't merely describe the ordeals--he includes eye witness accounts and journal entries. History comes alive, as is necessary for study, understanding, and to spark further interest.
Hochschild details Leopold's deception and manipulation of world leaders and anti-slavery organizations. Leopold used charm and cunning to gain a personal colony, the "vast and rich populous Congo Free State", fronted by Belgium.
With other genocides of this size and duration, there were most often counter movements and cries of outrage. For the Congo, only a few spoke out. A black American named George Washington Williams was the first. His voice went unheeded, largely because the exploiters were white, and Williams was black and had left himself with greater vulnerability through a padded resume. The campaign against Leopold's misrule of the Congo was continued by Edward Dene Morel, a journalist who began as a clerk for a Liverpool shipping company. His writing helped expose the massive forced labor camp that was the Congo.
While accounts of this period in the Congo's history exist in public records, Hochschild pulled them together into a vivid sketch of personalities and political intrigue. Given the ongoing racial tension, and the sad plight of people in the Congo, glimpses of history are necessary to form opinions and demand change. I feel books such as this one are highly valuable towards much needed gains in our collective consciousness and the evolution of humanity. ...more
Reading this novel is like stepping into the setting's thirteen-hundred-acre estate in a neglected and antiquated corner of England in the early 1900s
Reading this novel is like stepping into the setting's thirteen-hundred-acre estate in a neglected and antiquated corner of England in the early 1900s. The time is that following the death of Queen Victoria, when cars were beginning to rule the roads and radical women were fighting for the right to vote. Young Lieutenant Paul Craddock had been injured in the Boer War and instead of continuing with civilian life in London, he idealizes a gentler time during Victorian England. His love for two women and the people of Shallowford stretch and change him. The story is rich with a large cast of characters and lush descriptions of their lives.
This novel was originally published around 1966. The author, R. F. Delderfield (1912–1972), achieved fame as a novelist for his portrayal of English life. With this novel, he became one of Britain’s most popular authors, and his novels have been adapted as TV series. ...more
The basic story outline was interesting enough. This is a mystery novel so I won't give the plot away, but it had legs and a historical backdrop. HoweThe basic story outline was interesting enough. This is a mystery novel so I won't give the plot away, but it had legs and a historical backdrop. However, the novel as a whole had little flesh. A little more work and editing would have been useful. For example, I find myself irritated by repetitious references to a character's nosiness, rather than actions to that effect. The ambiance of Victorian age struck me as little more than a wink. Although the protagonist is a hansom cab driver, much of the dialogue and actions felt modern--he could have been driving a cab. The Jack-in-the-box villains popped up out of nowhere so many times that I had to laugh. The character interior conflict and development was a thread instead of a plot driver. In all, a story that could have been gripping was okay. ...more
Light read. Light on suspense. Light on history. Light on archeology. The Laetitia Talbot protagonist was a fun feminist character with a mix of old-w Light read. Light on suspense. Light on history. Light on archeology. The Laetitia Talbot protagonist was a fun feminist character with a mix of old-world decorum and progressive thought.
This was a book from a local library sale. I'm enjoying excursions into genres and authors that I would normally not pick up. The historical lessons were interesting, but I would have enjoyed more or them, and to a greater depth. ...more
The narrative, plot and characters all worked well, yet I wouldn't say I enjoyed the story as much as have to admit I was intrigued. The story is harsThe narrative, plot and characters all worked well, yet I wouldn't say I enjoyed the story as much as have to admit I was intrigued. The story is harsh, and tragic, with moments of sweet reprieve. Most interesting, Michel Faber allows the reader room to focus on hope and the triumph of goodness, or knowledge that all heads towards the foreshadowed train wreck. If you are a reader who takes an active role in your novels, and don't mind long reads, then you will enjoy this (unless you don't want to read raw passages about sex). This is one of the best novels I've read this year. ...more
This became perfectly clear--I, as a person raised in the American education system, did not get enough world history. This is an unfair statement, coThis became perfectly clear--I, as a person raised in the American education system, did not get enough world history. This is an unfair statement, come to think of it. I wasn't a fan of history classes. Perhaps they were not taught in a way to make them fascinating to youngsters. When I look back, all I remember was a dull skimming of decades full of names and dates with perhaps numbers thrown in. Now I take responsibility for not rectifying my lack of knowledge as an adult. I still haven't engaged in a systematic study of history. The historical novels I've picked up here and there have been luring me into a state of curiosity, which is why I read Jamie Doran's non-fiction accounting of Yuri Gagarin.
Truth be told, I bought the book for my husband because of his interest in astronomy, and then I stole it back. What I've learned is how little we Americans are exposed to history of the rest of the world. To refine that thought--we have to seek out what the rest of the world has been up too and can't rely on what's held under our noses by the common media fire hoses aimed at us daily.
I recommend reading this Starman book. It is about the Russian space program, and in case you don't know it, they accomplished man's first fight in space. Their story is interesting, especially as it brings to life the hopes and dreams of humanity over the geographical and cultural divisions. At the same time, it highlights the unique path determined by Russian culture and politics. Do I contradict myself? Give the book a read and let me know if you still think so. ...more
The beginning was poetry, stunning, tactile prose, promising an extraordinary read. That initial song of joy dimmed as a story of slavery unfolded. Ce The beginning was poetry, stunning, tactile prose, promising an extraordinary read. That initial song of joy dimmed as a story of slavery unfolded. Centered on plantation life in Saint-Domingue in the late 1700s, a spotlight shines on a diversity of characters, yet turns most frequently to Tété, who was born into slavery and dreamed of freedom. Following the migration of Tété from Saint-Domingue to New Orleans, I was exposed to the fascinating history of Haiti's independence, and the effects of purchase of the Louisiana Territory in 1803. The political and sociological aspects are well represented in the novel, which brought history to life and deepened my understanding of the atrocities of slavery. ...more
What is commendable about this work is that Walter Dean Myers has unearthed an amazing story that otherwise would have been lost forever in a decayingWhat is commendable about this work is that Walter Dean Myers has unearthed an amazing story that otherwise would have been lost forever in a decaying package of letters and diary entries in the British Royal archives. Myers hired professional researchers to ensure accuracy in his telling of Sarah Forbes Bonetta's life journey and I had the feeling he never wanted to overstep the bounds of a faithful historian. I applaud the effort and am thankful to Myers for his insight and dedication to bring Sarah's story to light.
The sketchiness of detail and human interaction left me wanting more. I'd love Sarah's biography to be written again by someone willing to step into her shoes and write as she might have experienced a life as an 8 year old African princess saved from death at the hands of brutal King Ghezo of Dahomey and then given to Queen Victoria, who became her patron and the god-mother of her daughter. But, I've read the story of Ghengis Khan by Conn Iggulden, for example, and watched the Khans live and breathe, so I know what can be done.
To write Sarah's novel would require bravery. Myers alluded to what may have been flaws in Sarah's character. Given the privileges she enjoyed, a tendency to become haughty or spoiled is likely. However, I believe her married life had a turning point that would be amazing to explore. But I'm off track. Sorry. In short, this was a fascinating story about a fascinating time in history--it was just a little too short. ...more
For me, the story took a back seat to insight concerning citizen life during the reign of Elizabeth I. It was a time of intolerance, when a difference For me, the story took a back seat to insight concerning citizen life during the reign of Elizabeth I. It was a time of intolerance, when a difference in religious belief spelled treason, resulting in torture and execution. This novel reminded me why the U.S. founders insisted upon separation between church and state. The belief of any one individual cannot trump the civic rights of others. Anyone who supports views coming from right wing conservatives, or cheer for anarchists such as Kim Davis, should review countries, modern and historical, where religious beliefs are used as the basis of civil law. ...more