Although the US Military accepts women in its ranks; many view it as a man’s world. Imagine how much of a man’s world it was in 1782 during the last l...moreAlthough the US Military accepts women in its ranks; many view it as a man’s world. Imagine how much of a man’s world it was in 1782 during the last leg of the Revolutionary War. Deborah Samson, a 22-year old female, wanted a life of adventure versus that of an indentured servant. Wearing men’s clothing and calling herself Robert Shurtliff; she enlisted in the Continental Army. Alex Myers, a descendant of Samson and a Transgender who understands female-to-male roles; opens up Deborah/Robert’s story in, “Revolutionary”.
The onset of “Revolutionary” instantly grips the reader with a strong, creative, and well-written writing style which is echelons higher than most during their first historical-fiction novel. Although there is too much instant drama which feels like an effort at shock value; Myers still executes the concept well and maintains the pace, encouraging page-turning. Not only is reader attention maintained but Myers packs a lot of story into few pages which will surprise the reader with how much has occurred while few numerical pages have progressed. This is not a negative thing, however, and merely emphasizes the complexity of “Revolutionary”.
Although Deborah/Robert isn’t introduced in the traditional way with a usual character arc; one does feel like her personality is understood. On the other hand, it would be expected that “Revolutionary” would have a strong focal point on the physical and mental conflicts which Deborah encounters posing as a man. Although discussed, Myers doesn’t stress this emotional aspect and loses a strong thread in the novel.
In a related sense, “Revolutionary” is predominately a war novel. The reader will not truly gain a look into Deborah/Robert’s inner psyche as much as preferred and will instead learn more about life in the army during the Revolutionary War. In fact, the characterization is weak at some points and the story could have been told by anyone versus this fascinating figure. On the other hand, the army/war depictions are so lively and real that it is almost unbelievable that Myers hasn’t stepped out of a time machine and experienced it firsthand.
One of the biggest frustrations with “Revolutionary” is the ease with which “tricky” events are solved for Deborah/Robert. Every time her secret is about to be exposed, she barely worries about it and the tension is over immediately with her mystery secure. This is unbelievable as life is not that easy and one can pretty much bet that it wasn’t that easy for the real-life Deborah/Robert, either. Another issue begins approximately 90 pages in when Myers flip flops between the Deborah and Robert names so much (within the same sentences) that it begins to feel like two separate people versus solidifying the essence that Deborah was becoming Robert more and more. Basically, the opposite effect occurred than what seemed to be Myers’s intent.
Some readers may find the plot slow in the respect that it oftentimes feels like “Revolutionary” isn’t leading to a climax or “point”. Each page is merely filled with descriptions of military training and thus, the meaning is lost. This would be remedied by a strong character study on Deborah/Robert’s emotional sanity/feelings but again: that angle is not the main idea in the novel.
At the three-quarters mark, “Revolutionary” does a 180-degree turn and highlights the previously lesser-discussed emotional gender identity struggles in Deborah/Robert’s mind. Myers also shocks with not one but two very large and unexpected events; and adds romance. The fact that these are out of “left field” but mesh smoothly into the story demonstrates Myers’s composition skills.
The conclusion of “Revolutionary” felt somewhat weak and a bit too “cheesy” but not so much that it is was a detriment to the overall novel. Sadly, Myers did not include an ‘Author’s Note’ explaining the historical liberties taken within the story which is disappointing.
Despite some aches and pains with execution, “Revolutionary” is a strong, vibrant, and heavy historical novel which demonstrates Myers’s passion on the subject and his historical research. Being both well-written and compelling, I would certainly read another HF work from the author and recommend “Revolutionary” to historical fiction lovers.
Love ripens everyday, near and far, in a variety of ways. Sometimes, it can feel bigger than life and becomes one’s whole being. Take such a love stor...moreLove ripens everyday, near and far, in a variety of ways. Sometimes, it can feel bigger than life and becomes one’s whole being. Take such a love story; add in the 1989 Omaha World’s Fair, a little mysticism, and you have Timothy Schaffert’s “The Swan Gondola”.
The bare bones of “The Swan Gondola”, which follows the relationship of Bartholomew “Ferret” Skerritt and his love for Cecily; could be simply described as a plain, romantic tale. However, the novel is anything but simple and ordinary. Told amongst the backdrop of the Omaha World’s Fair, complete with the magic of carnival life; Schaffert delivers a spiritual and whimsical plot which is unique and utterly compelling. “The Swan Gondola” is a special novel which demands page-turning.
The content of “The Swan Gondola” is not a typical novel as there isn’t a ‘traditional’ introduction or growth of a story and instead the reader is instantly thrown into what feels like the thick of a plot. This works to the novel’s benefit, however, making it both intriguing and multi-dimensional. Schaffert’s storytelling is poetic and highly illustrative adding to the depth of “The Swan Gondola”. In fact, the take is so imaginative that the text flows like a film with strong, vivid imagery that the reader can almost claim to see. Suddenly, pages have passed without even noticing!
Schaffert provides a cast of characters with individualist personalities and quirks; with each experiencing personal self-growth. Ferret isn’t what one might think he seems to be and he bonds well with the reader. This adds strength to “The Swan Gondola” and compels the reader to want to know what happens.
Although the essence of the book is a love story, it is not told in a way that is cheesy or overdone. The plot is well-paced, smooth, cohesive, and believable. Often times, Schaffert delivers lines which are heartfelt, deep, and lyrical while also encouraging the reader to dwell on what was just said (in a good way). The prose is accessible and relatable. However, some readers may be discouraged by Schaffert’s high focus on details/descriptions of surroundings to help create the story. Although Schaffert’s use of this makes sense and has sufficient reasoning; this style isn’t for everyone. The Swan Gondola” also isn’t a dialogue-heavy novel which may deter some readers.
One of the strongest characteristics of “The Swan Gondola” is that it is never predictable. It is suspenseful in its own right but again, in a very natural way. There are some allusions made to “The Wizard of Oz”, which Schaffert admits to; but these are not in relation to the plot and more so with small details and symbolism. In no way does “The Swan Gondola” feel like the same story, so have no fear.
There is an issue with an inconsistency with historical accuracy. Although Schaffert’s description of the World Fair, carnival life, and the general way of American life during McKinley’s presidency is lush and colorful; there are jumps where the text is too modern but then reverts back to a historical back-peddle. Fortunately, this doesn’t effect the novel too much but it is noticeable.
Regrettably, the last quarter of “The Swan Gondola” slumps in strength and fails to provide the, ‘oomph’ Schaffer presents throughout the novel. The plot takes an elementary turn which is both unbelievable and forced. Although these concluding chapters attempt to capture the spiritualism of the era, the text plays out more like a young adult novel. Yet, despite this, Schaffert offers quite a few surprises while also solving some of the novel’s riddles. Not to mention, the symbolism is heavy and becomes clear making “The Swan Gondola” gripping with a burst of philosophy underneath it all. The ending is a bit too ‘happily ever after’ but this also agrees with the fairy tale-like aspects of the novel.
Overall, “The Swan Gondola” is a terrific novel with depth, surprises, and well-written text. Other reviewers have compared it to “Water for Elephants” and “The Night Circus” which I can’t attest to, not having read these novels (I have only seen the film version of “Water for Elephants”). I would, however, compare it the film, “Big Fish”. “The Swan Gondola” is the type of sleepy novel which will certainly arouse large audiences in due time and will flutter a few film studios into a film adaptation. Either way, the novel is great and recommended for those interested in a historical fiction love story during the turn of the century. I would certainly read more from Timothy Schaffert in the future. (less)
It isn’t often that a book instantly grabs the reader from the first line and holds on for dear life. “The Door”, by Magda Azabo, is one of those prec...moreIt isn’t often that a book instantly grabs the reader from the first line and holds on for dear life. “The Door”, by Magda Azabo, is one of those precious gems. How does it fare?
From its synopsis, “The Door” appears to be a dramatic mystery or an over-exaggerated allegory but this is deceiving, as Szabo’s novel is neither of these things. “The Door” is difficult to describe with its mashing of drama, stream of consciousness, character and relationship studies, and philosophy into one novel. Although a fictional novel, “The Door” reads almost like a memoir with the narrator (and one of the main characters) reminiscing on her time employing a housekeeper named Emerence.
“The Door” is a unique tale with multi-layered complexity exploring various topics (love, death, philosophy, relationships, war, animals, etc) in between the lines. The storytelling is imaginative and strikingly rich. “The Door” isn’t typical or traditional with little dialogue and a lack of an arc building to a climax. Despite this, it is a moral story comparable to a fable and therefore penetrates deep with the reader and refuses to be put down, encouraging page turning.
Szabo’s prose is remarkable with beautiful and accessible language and grammar. The narrator is conversational (and often times, quite hilarious) but well spoken; truly bringing the characters, events, and story to life. Like a fable, much of “The Door” seems unlikely and yet it is believable and ‘real’.
“The Door” charms by not being predictable. There is absolutely no way in knowing what will happen next which adds to its gripping characteristics. At the same time, Hungarian readers will relate to the story with characters having strong Hungarian personalities and nothing being lost in the book’s translation. Szabo is able to convey various emotions powerfully allowing the reader to ‘feel’ and also think about the expressions. The timing is precise and well-effected resulting in an entertaining novel with folds of depth. Plus, the novel is strong throughout versus ebbing and flowing like most books.
As is natural in character studies, the underlying lesson is the self-reflection of the narrator and in turn of the reader versus of the subject. This occurs subtly in “The Door” without being overextended or forced by Szabo.
A complaint with “The Door” is that the plot can feel repetitive with events being similar but told in a different way. At times, it feels Szabo is unsure the reader has understood the message (he/she has and keeps revisiting it.
The climax of “The Door” is somewhat expected but quickens the pace in a hectic way which makes sense to the story and continues to urge readability (in a good way). The conclusion to the novel is well-rounded and strong in terms of both the plot and in sinking in the moral lesson of relationships, trust, dependency, etc. This is relatable and applies to all readers, making “The Door” accessible to a general audience.
“The Door” is a unique and entertaining novel with powerful levels of depth which don’t overwhelm the reader and feel quite natural (it is a rather quick read). Szabo’s writing is terrific and is recommended for those seeking a humorous, almost fable-like tale. (less)
As a “fan girl” of King Charles II, it is only natural that I am also fascinated by his mistresses. Although I adore Nell Gwynne as my favorite; the o...moreAs a “fan girl” of King Charles II, it is only natural that I am also fascinated by his mistresses. Although I adore Nell Gwynne as my favorite; the other women are compelling, as well. Marci Jefferson reveals the role of Frances Stuart in her debut novel, “Girl on the Golden Coin”.
At this juncture of my many years of reading both history and historical fiction text; I can pretty much scan a book and know if it will please me. “Girl on the Golden Coin” instantly caused trepidation but its promises of scandal, intrigue, and duplicity surrounding Frances Stuart; insisted I proceed. As I suspected: I was let down. Big time.
“Girl on the Golden Coin” is best described as a “Stuart High School” drama filled with squealing, giggles, and shrugs. The novel is more fiction than history and fails to bring the era to life. Yes, there are some illustrative descriptions but overall, the authenticity is lacking as the focus is on teen-level soap opera drama. To be blunt: it doesn’t feel as though Jefferson did much research which is why the story is ‘told’ versus ‘lived’ and ‘shown’.
Although “Girl on the Golden Coin” is told in a first-person narrative; one never truly receives a real glimpse into Frances. She appears dense and yet illusive and has no character arc. In fact, none of the characters are portrayed strongly as Charles is not kingly, Queen Catherine is a dunce, Minette is a “mean girl”, and Frances lacks genuine chemistry with Charles. The only intriguing interaction is between Frances and the Duke of Buckingham.
The plotline in the novel is also thin. Nothing seems to ‘actually’ happen while uneventful pages pass. It isn’t that the pace is slow, per se; it is simply that the novel is boring. The reader will not learn historical facts nor experience memorable events. There is nothing to push “Girl on the Golden Coin”.
Jefferson’s work is a victim of the, “As you know, Bob”- method of storytelling in which characters discuss other figures or political events as a result of the first-person storytelling (a la Philippa Gregory). This becomes tedious with some sections feeling pointless except for this idle talk and adds to the absence of excitement.
It needs to be stated again that the major disappointment with “Girl on the Golden Coin” is the failure to bring Frances to life. Although this is HER novel, she breathes no air and Jefferson doesn’t give her any vibrancy. Plus, her portrayal is very inconsistent as she acts childlike one moment but alludes to adult behavior in the next moment.
Sadly, the well-known historical incidents involving Charles’s mistresses or the political landscape are glossed over, appearing unimportant. This means that those readers new to the topic don’t receive a proper introduction while novice readers don’t get to re-address their favorite moments. Also keeping the reader from truly getting into the story are the extremely short chapters (some are only 2 pages long). Everything is abrupt which prevents any depth or symbolism to seep through.
“Girl on the Golden Coin" finally improves during the last quarter of the novel with the final chapters being more ardent about history and including a creative interpretation of Frances’s elopement with the Duke of Richmond. However, the conclusion is rushed and honestly: doesn’t make much sense with the novel and therefore lacks strength. On the bright side, Jefferson provides an ‘Author’s Note’ explaining the historical liberties taken in the novel and explains some of her motives.
Overall, “Girl on the Golden Coin” is a fluffy, historical-fiction novel which emphasizes the ‘fiction’ aspect. Although the topic is interesting; both the presentation and the characters are flat and the plot doesn’t have much of a point or climax. The novel is only recommended for those new to the topic seeking an introduction or for readers seeking a light, 1-2 day fluffy read (which I know can be great for a ‘filler read’). Otherwise, those well-versed on the topic will be left unsatisfied. Credit should be given to Jefferson for writing a novel based on a figure who doesn’t receive much attention and therefore I would perhaps consider reading another one of Jefferson’s works to see if there is an improvement in her writing (but I would be in no rush). “Girl on the Golden Coin” is an empty-calorie read.(less)
With the horrors of WWII, the Holocaust, and concentration camps; little attention is given to the reconstruction of Germany (the country and its civi...moreWith the horrors of WWII, the Holocaust, and concentration camps; little attention is given to the reconstruction of Germany (the country and its civilians) after the war. This is precisely the focus of Rhidian Brook’s novel, “The Aftermath”.
“The Aftermath” tells the story of Colonel Lewis Morgan, his wife Rachel and son Edmund, who are requisitioned into the home of German father Stefan Lubert and his daughter, Freda. Instead of displacing the family, the kindly Colonel decides the house is big enough for both families to call a home. Amazingly enough, “The Aftermath” is inspired by the true story of the author’s grandfather.
Clearly, such a description signifies the implication of an emotional novel. Told in third-person narrative from each character’s perspective (even the children); the novel illuminates the various ups, downs, pains, struggles, and adjustments involved in such a living situation. Although following so many characters can sometimes be distracting; Brook successfully delineates between each one with distinctive personalities and quirks, allowing the reader to truly get to know them and even pick-and-choose a favorite.
The pace of “The Aftermath” is somewhat slow but not because it is ‘boring’ but because Brook focuses on a character and emotional study versus a traditional arc with a buildup and climatic events. Yet, there is enough dialogue and accessibility for the average reader, as well. For those seeking strong history, “The Aftermath” feels real, alive, and is clearly well-researched flowing naturally with its historical imagery. Brook’s language style is beautiful and eloquent, yet with easy-to-read prose. Again, each character has a personal style but “The Aftermath” is cohesive and overall well-written.
“The Aftermath” features a satisfying enough ratio of material which stereotypically both genders will enjoy: military and governmental policy for men and emotional relationships for the women. However, Brook doesn’t overly romanticize either topic which adds to the rounded essence of the novel. Despite this even focus, there are some overly predictable romantic elements which disappoint the reader, as one comes to expect more from Brook.
On a negative end, there are moments which feel skimmed, as though Brook held back, and the texture could of included deeper resonating literary experiences. However, the tale is vivid in a way that one can imagine it as a movie (Note: it is already a screenplay and rumored to be a major motion picture release in the future).
Some further annoyances throughout “The Aftermath” include editing errors (missing end quotation marks, for instance), German phrases with no translations and British-spelled words which are distracting/frustrating, and pages numbered only on every other page. Also weak is the storyline of the orphaned children whose plot is not necessary and underdeveloped. However, these complaints are minor and not extremely taxing on the story, overall.
The climax of “The Aftermath” is somewhat subdued while the ending feels rushed and doesn’t answer all questions. This is remedied by a memorable epilogue, however. Unfortunately, Brook doesn’t include notes regarding the historical merits in the story which is a let down for those readers encouraged to learn more about the topic.
Overall, “The Aftermath” is well written, entertaining, and is a strong look at post-WWII Germany in a way not many novel attempt. The novel encourages debate and discussions regarding collective guilt. I would read another historical fiction work from Brook and recommend “The Aftermath” for HF lovers (not just those interested in WWII). (less)
I am a creature of habit preferring schedule over spontaneity, clocks over chaos. This can also be said of Mother and Father, the parents in “Skylark”...moreI am a creature of habit preferring schedule over spontaneity, clocks over chaos. This can also be said of Mother and Father, the parents in “Skylark” whose daughter, Skylark (obviously), breaks normality by visiting her uncle for a week in Hungarian master author Deszo Kosztolanyi’s novel. How will Mother and Father cope?
“Skylark” is far from a typical fictional novel as characters aren’t formally introduced (you get to know them through their actions), there really isn’t much of a plot, and the character development is more linear than at arc. Yet, “Skylark” isn’t a stream of consciousness novel following the thoughts of one main character, instead having an outside omnipresent voice telling the tale in a tone similar to that of a play on a theatre stage.
Even though “Skylark” isn’t “typical”, it has manifolds of meaning mixing philosophy, psychology, economics/government, and familiar themes into the mix. Mother and Father can be anyone, anywhere. Although the story is about a week without their daughter, Mother and Father deal with life issues in general and learn to live with a changing world. In this way, Kosztolanyi offers a message which can apply to all readers.
The messages and underlying morals are subtle and yet heavy, not overwhelming the reader with thickness but offering morsels for thought at the same time. Admittedly, there are areas which are more relatable if the reader is Hungarian (I am) due to some of the customs, cultural icons, and even names suggested. Basically, some meaning may be lost to those outside of Hungarian knowledge circles but regardless, the book is still powerful.
Kosztolanyi’s writing is unique with intelligent prose supplemented with hints of humor which keeps the pace steady and the plot moving. Despite this, “Skylark” is NOT a book for everyone. It is definitely, to my bibliophile credential understanding, a book which either will be loved or hated with a very narrow middle ground: proceed with caution. Again, “Skylark” lacks overabundant dialogue or a complete look into character psyche; working more as an outside study and therefore won’t satisfy everyone.
As “Skylark” progresses, the meaning behind the plot expands. Mother and Father begin to live and experience life in a way they don’t allow themselves in the presence of their daughter. Kosztolanyi uses this as a metaphor for the guilt that can be felt when venturing out of life’s tedium and even “sinning” against personal beliefs. This quiet novel certainly becomes louder, so to speak (no pun intended).
The climax of “Skylark” offers many layers and like the rest of the novel, can be interpreted in various ways. On a superficial level, in context with the plot, Kosztolanyi expresses humor, anger, and strength while underneath the obvious; the reader is set forth to think about individual meaning. Sadly, once the climax commences, “Skylark” loses some steam and vigor almost quite literally as though Kosztolanyi tired out from writing the apex and lost his vision. “Skylark” still delights, but not as much as before the crescendo.
Like the description of the final chapter describes, “Skylark” ends the story without answering all questions. However, the conclusion perfectly depicts life and its uncertainties and thus, the ending is memorable in its own right.
“Skylark” is an enjoyable ‘thinking' novel which bleeds in the classic strain. It is certainly not for everyone but is heavily recommended for those who enjoy heavy literary novels or Eastern European (Hungarian) cultures. (less)
Much like his work, Edgar Allen Poe has a mysterious and dark aura. This can also be said of his personal life which includes his women and marriages....moreMuch like his work, Edgar Allen Poe has a mysterious and dark aura. This can also be said of his personal life which includes his women and marriages. Lynne Cullen pursues this romantic angle in “Mrs. Poe”.
To clear any misunderstandings, “Mrs. Poe” is not directly a novel of Poe’s wife (although Virginia Poe is indeed a character). Rather, it follows Frances “Fanny” Osgood, a fellow poet who becomes involved with Poe and also befriends Virginia. Cullen’s topic focus intrigues but sadly, her writing does not.
“Mrs. Poe” is bland and thin, immediately introducing far too many characters with each lacking in any development. The reader never truly “feels” Fanny, which can also be said about the story itself as it is one-dimensional and is missing any depth. Cullen’s writing is descriptive and illustrative; but she merely expresses the settings versus the plot, leaving an empty story. The novel also has too much dialogue, adding to the absence of truly understanding Fanny’s innermost thoughts/feelings. When a glimpse is finally revealed, they feel juvenile. In fact, the novel as a whole is more suited for a YA audience than for adults.
As aforementioned, Cullen includes too many characters such as Poe’s literary circle but unfortunately, this doesn’t feel natural and is more in the essence of name-dropping. On the other hand, the actual character of Poe is compelling carrying the mystery of his personality which the reader yearns to solve. The novel does pick up the pace approximately halfway through with some dramatic moments, but the name-dropping continues which really has no impact whatsoever on the story and is simply annoying. Also frustrating is Fanny’s constant complaints of her husband’s affairs, yet, it is okay for her to pursue Poe…
“Mrs. Poe” is quite repetitive without gripping events or an arching plot. Even as the novel progresses, the story continues to be shallow although there is one surprising twist. Other than that, even the climactic portions are silly and juvenile at best. To make it worse, these events are overly foreshadowed and much too predictable.
The conclusion of “Mrs. Poe” is unbelievable and tries “too hard” to be twisted and dark… but fails. Like the rest of the novel, it is thin, abrupt, and certainly not memorable. Cullen claims in her ‘Author’s Note’ to have focused on the historical merit of events but the fluffiness of “Mrs. Poe” did not reflect this.
The only success of the novel was to show Poe in an alternate personified view than the usual dark and edgy character. In “Mrs. Poe”, Poe is mysterious but likable and even gentle. Sadly though, even fluffy HF novels tend to arouse my investigation of at least one character but “Mrs. Poe” failed to do even that.
Overall, “Mrs. Poe” is an interesting topic but the execution fails. It is fluffy, too smooth in texture, and reads like a YA novel. Perhaps I don’t click with the author (this was my third novel of Cullen’s I have read); as I prefer heavier HF (more history than fiction). On the bright side, “Mrs. Poe” is a quick, 1-2 day read. The novel is only suggested for a silly, quick filler read. I think actual Poe fans would find it elementary and insulting. “Mrs. Poe” can be skipped. (less)
In the year 2014, women dressing as men are of no consequence. However, 130+ years ago, Lucy Lobdell’s decision to don men’s clothing in order to set...moreIn the year 2014, women dressing as men are of no consequence. However, 130+ years ago, Lucy Lobdell’s decision to don men’s clothing in order to set upon her own fortune was beyond scandalous. William Klaber meshes this real woman with some fiction in, “The Rebellion of Miss Lucy Ann Lobdell”.
Although the topic of Lucy Lobdell becoming Joseph Lobdell is without a doubt fascinating; Klaber’s novel is sadly less so. The issue lies purely with poor execution and a writing style which doesn’t go higher than the YA rung on the book ladder. “The Rebellion of Miss Lucy Ann Lobdell” fails to ignite as the story follows too much of the “I did this and then that”- structure versus truly allowing the reader to live through Lucy/Joseph. Although the plot is interesting; the storytelling is extremely flat and demonstrates Klaber’s lack of novel-writing experience.
Klaber falls short of keeping events flowing smoothly with consistency. It is clear that he had a lot of ready facts concerning Lucy/Joseph’s life which he wanted to enthusiastically include but he didn’t mesh out the plot evenly. The story has hills and valleys akin to a rowdy roller coaster with too many characters, tangents, and subplots involved; yet with none panning out. In effect, “The Rebellion of Miss Lucy Ann Lobdell” is tiresome and frustrating.
Also frustrating is an absence of adequate inner dialogue, conflict, and struggle within Lucy/Joseph’s head. The story has such potential to explore the feelings of a female pretending to be a male in areas such as sexuality, psychology, and feminism. Klaber hardly even grazes the surface of these with only a few considerations made which are quite disappointing.
“The Rebellion of Miss Lucy Ann Lobdell” improves halfway through with Klaber’s writing becoming less chaotic and more detailed. Regardless, the novel would still not be described as a page turner. Historically, the settings feel authentic, albeit slightly forced. It doesn’t help that the novel suffers from some text/grammar errors.
The climax, which was certainly a poignant point in this real-life figure’s life; doesn’t elicit any emotion. The potential is lost as the delivery lacks energy. Afterwards, “The Rebellion of Miss Lucy Ann Lobdell stumbles even more as it feels like Klaber lost both his footing and his energy. The storytelling picks up again, but with the staleness having already set in; doesn’t fully recover.
The conclusion of “The Rebellion of Miss Lucy Ann Lobdell” has a saving grace of presenting Lucy/Joseph’s mental deterioration which is the only point at which the novel can be deemed as “strong”. Otherwise, the ending is abrupt and unsatisfying. However, Klaber obliges the reader with information on the lives of the characters after the novel’s depiction and also includes a section on how he became involved (Note:some readers may be deterred by the fact that Klaber asserts to having channeled Lobdell’s spirit).
Aside from definitely raising an interest in Lucy/Joseph; “The Rebellion of Miss Lucy Ann Lobdell” fails to deliver. The novel feels empty and devoid of the emotion it could have packed. Thusly, the novel is only encouraged for either YA readers or those seeking a light, quick (1-2 days) read. (less)
Having read a couple of Pearl S. Buck’s Chinese novels; I was drawn to “Death in the Castle” due to the novel taking place in England versus China. Th...moreHaving read a couple of Pearl S. Buck’s Chinese novels; I was drawn to “Death in the Castle” due to the novel taking place in England versus China. The question is: can Buck maintain a story in a setting outside of the “norm”?
“Death in the Castle” stands true to Buck style by jumping directly into the plot versus introducing characters. This ‘works’ because Sir Richard, Lady Mary, Kate, Wells, etc; are familiar and relatable without necessarily needing an introduction. At the same time, the characters don’t particularly evolve and fit too cleanly into a box while also causing some confusion (for example: Kate doesn’t speak or act like a maid at all).
Immediately, the pace is swift and easy flowing, resulting in a fast read. The issue lays with inconsistency as some events are “cheesy” and best described as a “Downtown Abbey for teens”; while other sections are deeper and provide more ample thinking in regards to philosophical theories (versus simple dramatic novel events).
This inconsistency also bleeds though to the images and settings which aren’t explored or expressed enough (especially historically – it is difficult to figure out the time frame of the novel) and yet are easily imagined. “Death in the Castle” feels somewhat like a screenplay and summary which one could see portrayed on the silver screen.
“Death in the Castle” lacks the peaceful Zen experienced in Buck’s Chinese novels which may disappoint some readers but will please those who seek a more upbeat vibe. However, it often feels too modern, making “Death in the Castle” choppy, at times. Also odd is Buck’s choice to not include any chapter breaks which makes the text one long string. This makes the book difficult to put down (in a good encouraging page turning) but is a negative when needing a bathroom break.
Buck’s simplistic style and ability to conceal the underlying premise of the novel (and of the meaning of the novel title), while still maintaining a steady pace; is well-conceived and promising.
Part Two of “Death in the Castle” is a complete 180-degree turn of events with much more drama and suspense. Although some of these are clichés, while the others are compelling; they are enjoyable and creative (albeit, even if a little silly at times). This action becomes quite exciting with multiple events occurring on each page and will remind the reader of a murder mystery dinner or ‘Clue’ game. History fans will also revel with the mention of or connection with well-know English historical events.
The conclusion of “Death in the Castle” is weak as Buck plays on anticipation and builds suspense but closes the novel not answering all questions, and/or answering them in an unbelievable or odd way. Other storylines (such as Kate’s) are too easily solved and perfectly happily-ever-after. Buck is too abrupt and lacking creativity and spunk with this ending.
“Death in the Castle” is spirited, fun, and enjoyable; and a great novel for mystery/HF readers whom seek a one-day, quick read. Although, one shouldn’t expect Buck’s usual depth or appeal; “Death in the Castle” isn’t bad and is written decently well. (less)