I really enjoy books about historical mysteries. Columbus origins may, or may not, be a mystery and I love books that focus on different and originalI really enjoy books about historical mysteries. Columbus origins may, or may not, be a mystery and I love books that focus on different and original theories. I have to confess, though, that I had this book in the TBR pile for 6 years and only recently did I decide to read it.
The author, Jose Rodrigues dos Santos, is a well known journalist and I have no doubt that many people have picked this one up just because of that. My mother read it and some friends did too but their reviews were nothing exciting and I hesitated till now to try it.
I thought the mystery of Columbus origins was well presented. The story is told in an engaging way and I was really curious to find out how the main character was going to find the proof he needed to prove his theory. I actually liked the theory. I'm not an expert on Columbus and his origins but the possibilities explored here did not seem too outrageous or over the top.
However I did have a problem with the main character and how he is written. The bit about his private life did not make me feel I knew him better and what I knew of him I didn't like. I found the writing as a whole a bit weak, it seemed at times a caricature of how we might speak. He also makes a point of explaining things that I believe to be common knowledge so it felt a bit condescending of him and that really put me off...
It seems obvious that Rodrigues dos Santos did a huge amount of research not only on Columbus but of history in general so he could mention all the titles he does but then he lacks some the appropriate knowledge about each one - for instance in a particular scene the history professor is looking at a book by Samuel Noah Kramer in a bookshelf and wishing he had it in his library. That is not a particularly hard to find book and me and my colleagues all bought it during our first year at the University, one would think the professor would have a copy of it since his first year too...
The book follows closely the Da Vinci Code structure and while that didn't bother me too much, I can see it might influence some people to like or dislike it. Will I read more by Rodrigues dos Santos? I might do it if the theme is one that appeals to me. If I decide to give him another chance it definitely won't be for his writing...
The Tudors have been a lasting and prolific trend in current historical fiction themes and I have to say that I am ready to give them a rest. HoweverThe Tudors have been a lasting and prolific trend in current historical fiction themes and I have to say that I am ready to give them a rest. However sometimes a Tudor novel comes along that makes me curious and interested in reading it and that was the case with Sandra Byrd's The Secret Keeper. The fact that it was about Kateryn Parr (that's how the author spells it) and that the blurb hints at the relationship between Thomas Seymour and Princess Elizabeth was enough to grab my interest.
I am happy to say that I did enjoy reading it. The main character is a young woman - Juliana St John - who as recently lost her father and has a less than warm relationship with her mother. She is taken to live in Kateryn Parr's household by Lord Thomas Seymour. Juliana occasionally has prophetic dreams and the latest one she had is precisely about Seymour...
I did like Juliana; she was level headed, sometimes too eager to please but always friendly to everyone. She lives in a dangerous world though and is not immune to the bad things that occasionally happen to good people. She develops a relationship with Kateryn Parr that is similar to a mother / daughter relationship, and ends up following her from Lord Latimer's household to Henry VIII's court, as she becomes his last queen, and later on when she marries Lord Thomas Seymour.
I find that I am much more able to enjoy HF when the main character is a fictional one living in the real world than when it is a real person. Though Juliana's eyes we see Parr as a distinguished woman determined to fulfill her duty but also a woman of faith and a prolific writer who tries to influence her king and faces danger for her beliefs. She is much more than just the one who survived... I really enjoyed this outlook on the political and religious problems of the time; they were the perfect background to the story of Juliana’s growth, her friendship with the queen and her romance with a young gentleman of Lord Thomas Seymour household.
Sadly Parr’s love for Seymour makes her blind to his faults and easy to manipulate...as Juliana realises. Tragically Kateryn Parr dies less than a week after giving birth to her daughter from child bed fever. Whatever happened to her daughter is a bit of a mystery and Sandra Byrd's final twist gives us at least a very satisfying conclusion.
An interesting read with a fresh heroine and an intriguing plot that I would recommend even if you think you are done with the Tudors.
I had absolutely no idea what I was getting myself into when I decided to read du Maurier's Hungry Hill. I wanted to read something different from herI had absolutely no idea what I was getting myself into when I decided to read du Maurier's Hungry Hill. I wanted to read something different from her best known works and thought that a family saga might make an interesting story.
Well... it did! An interesting, but, also a tragic and depressing story. The story of the Brodrick family and their life in Ireland from 1820 to 1920. The story opens with the patriarch John Brodrick, called Copper John. However we immediately know that the family has been in Ireland for a few generations and that one of the Brodrick man ended up being killed by a member of the Donovan family and the feud is still very much open. In fact one could say that the story begins with a Donovan cursing Copper John and all his children.
I tell you your mine will be in ruins and your home destroyed and your children forgotten ...but this hill will be standing still to confound you.
Copper John is a man of progress. He lives in Clonmere with his five children and has decided he will open a mine on Hungry Hill. Although the land belongs to his partner it is Copper John who runs the mine and makes it a success. Hungry Hill ends up being their fortune.
However the Brodricks are never well accepted by the locals. Something neither Copper John nor Henry, his oldest son, are very worried about but that his second son, John. soon realises and feels uncomfortable with. Trouble with the miners leads Henry to fall ill and eventually die. John becomes his father heir but he is only interested in his dogs. Even after he marries and has children his interest is only in what gives him pleasure and he leaves all boring and tiresome decisions to his carefree and temperamental wife Fanny Rosa. It is an interesting thing that John seems like a sympathetic character in the beginning. He understands the way the locals think and anticipates the troubles his father is going to have. But he becomes more and more of a dreamer and his marriage makes him even more selfish and detached from the reality he finds tiresome.
John also dies young. He tries to end the feud with the Donovans and catches diphtheria. His children are still young and are left in the care of their mother. It is his oldest son, Johnnie, who eventually succeeds Copper John. The mines are still making them rich and Johnnie, a bit the image of his own mother, thinks only of his own pleasure. He lacks any self-control, which brings him very little friends and it is only when he falls in love with his brother Henry's fiancée that he realises he leads an empty life. He makes friends with the Donovans and once again that association does not end well. It seems the Donovans never forget which side they are on despite the Brodricks trying to end the feud. Johnnie eventually dies of an alcohol overdose... It's his brother Henry that becomes the head of the family. Nothing like Johnnie he is profoundly in love with his wife and cares for his children and his business. One can say that if his father's marriage made him a worse person, Henry's marriage made him a better one. When his wife dies giving birth to their fourth child he is unable to cope with the reality of his life without her. His second marriage ruins his relationship with his children, with his friends and leaves only a shrewd and cold businessman.
His son Hal, enjoyed a close relationship with his mother and ends feeling rejected by his father. He knows his father thinks of him as a failure and the insecurity that comes out of that never lets him pursue his dream of painting and eventually sees him as a clerk in his own family's company. And once again it is a Donovan that leads to his death, still has a young man. He has time to see the mine come to an end though; other markets and raw materials make it unprofitable and after being sold the mine at Hungry Hill is finally closed. We next see Hal's son, who was two when his father died, go back to the family home as an adult. He happens to find himself drinking with the wrong company in a period of civil war and the Donovan curse that started this story is finally fulfilled and his home his destroyed. Would the Brodrick family fate have been different had Copper John asked the Hill for permission before opening the mine?
I loved du Maurier's writing and I suppose that is what made the difference in a story where there are so few nice characters and quite a number of them are nasty villains. The richest the Brodrick men become the weaker and tortured they seem to become too. But she made me interested and engaged in what happened to them and I could easily have kept on reading for another generation or two.