Wendy's Reviews > Borrowed Names: Poems About Laura Ingalls Wilder, Madam C.J. Walker, Marie Curie, and Their Daughters

Borrowed Names by Jeannine Atkins
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Jan 01, 11

bookshelves: 2010-award-possibilities
Recommended for: All of you.
Read from December 30, 2010 to January 01, 2011

Well. This book is something pretty special. I didn't expect to read it, even after I'd heard good things about it (novels in verse often irritate me, and this sounded so high-concept), but it presented itself at the library and wanted me to take it. I certainly didn't expect to enjoy it, but I did. Almost five stars.

Who decided they could publish and sell this book? I can't imagine how that happened, but I'm glad.

I expected to be interested most in the Laura/Rose section, though of course I read it skeptically, always wary of any Rose-aggrandizement. It wasn't really there--I thought it was pretty realistic, and it didn't make me love Laura any less or dislike Rose any more, which was pleasant. But I think I'm too close to the subject there to be able to settle in and enjoy the story and not debate interpretation at every step. I wasn't really looking-looking, but I only noticed one little inconsistency--they made molasses candy for Christmas, not maple sugar candy, which is so minute as to be meaningless and makes me sound petty, but, well, you guys understand.

So I read the Madame CJ Walker/A'Lelia section and thought "oh, this is the strength of the book, here", and then read the Madame Curie/Irene and Eve section and thought "no, this is the strength of the book"--so--maybe the Laura/Rose section is just as good but I can't see it. Or maybe the author, too, was too close that section and it didn't come out as well; I don't know her background.

As with so many other books I've read this season, I'm not sure who this is for, besides women, who will have some context for the stories (both personal as to mothers and daughters, and historical). What would a girl make of it? Her perspective would be so different.

I feel like I should say specific things about the writing: language simple and evocative, with differentiated voice for each character, settings described sparingly but effectively.

I really do recommend this to everyone, or anyway all the women, but be warned that it may bring up strong emotions, and if you don't want to be thinking about your own mother and your relationship with her, you might put it off until you're in another place. Read, enjoy, then write really long reviews about it for me to read.
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Melissa This has been on my to-read list for a while, but it just got bumped way up. Just submitted my library request!


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