Eshusdaughter's Reviews > The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate

The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate by Jacqueline Kelly
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May 04, 2009

really liked it
bookshelves: fiction, historical-fiction, young-adult, read-in-2009

Calpurnia Tate is eleven and the only girl in a family over-run with brothers. It's 1899 and the world is poised for the new century. The revolutionary ideas of Charles Darwin are still scandalizing librarians and teachers, the National Geographic Society is spearheading an rising interest in science and in sleepy little Fentress, Texas, Callie is at that awkward stage between child and young lady. As her mother tries to train her to be a proper housewife, Callie dreams of becoming a scientist and gleefully follows her grandfather around learning the scientific method, distilling the world's worst pecan wine and collecting bugs and plants.

I don't normally go for general fiction books. I far prefer something with a bit more action. However, somehow this book completely captured me. The writing is charming and sweet, pulling you in. The characters are all well developed, the descriptions vivid and full. Kelly brings Callie's world to life and invites us into a time in the not too distant past. Though Callie's conflicts and worries are not earth-shattering they matter to her and so they matter to the reader. Kelly has so perfectly captured life at the turn of the century and the rise of the scientific age. I loved the book and all the characters, but especially Callie and her grandfather.

My only quibble with the book is the ending. It didn't have enough resolution for me. I wanted to know what happened to Callie - did she get to go to university or did she abandon her dreams and end up a housewife? That was a major plot line in the book and it was left unresolved. I found that very disappointing. Otherwise the book was sweetly satisfying, like a cold glass of lemonade on a hot day.
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