Jane-Emily & Witches’ Children by Patricia Clapp
originally published 1969 and 1982
Harper, 7th printing, 2007
Genre: Horror, suspense, historical fiction
Jacket copy: Emily was a selfish, willful, hateful child who died before her thirteenth birthday. But that was a long time ago.
Jane is nine years old and an orphan when she and her young Aunt Louisa come to spend the summer at Jane’s grandmother’s house, a large, mysterious mansion in Massachusetts. Then one day . . . Jane stares into a reflecting ball in the garden—and the face that looks back at her is not her own.
Many years earlier, a child of rage and malevolence lived in this place. And she never left. Now Emily has dark plans for little Jane—a blood-chilling purpose that Louisa, just a girl herself, must battle with all her heart, soul, and spirit . . . or she will lose her innocent, helpless niece forever.
One of the most adored ghost stories of all time is available again after thirty years—to thrill and chill a new generation!
During the winter of 1692, when the young girls of Salem suddenly find themselves subject to fits of screaming and strange visions, some believe that they have seen the devil and are the victims of witches.
Book report: It’s funny: Though both I’m Deborah Sampson: A Soldier in the War of the Revolution and Witches’ Children were favorites of mine in elementary school, I don’t recall ever happening upon Jane-Emily in the Mililani Library. And don’t doubt me; I read Deborah Sampson (about a girl who dresses as a boy and FIGHTS IN THE REVOLUTION) probably seventy-odd times in second and third grade, and around that time Witches’ Children introduced me to the joys of both historical research and the occult shelf in the Children’s section. Actually, a decade or so later, when I was in The Crucible (Ann Putnam, Sr, whut whut!) and our director was going over historical notes with us, I brought up the cake Tituba makes of rye meal and the girls’ urine (my director–Stephen Clark–was nonplussed at that detail being in a children’s book). Yes, a good ten years later, I still vividly remembered that detail, and it was because the book was THAT good. But yeah, Jane-Emily? Never heard of it, so of course it went on my Shelf Discovery reading list, though there it only merited an Extra Credit mention. If Patricia Clapp wrote it, I was going to read it. Read the rest of this entry »
Wolf Hall: A Novel by Hilary Mantel
Henry Holt, 5th printing, 2009
Genre: Historical fiction, literary fiction
Jacket copy: In the ruthless arena of King Henry VIII’s court, only one man dares to gamble his life to win the king’s favor and ascend to the heights of political power.
England is a heartbeat from disaster. If the king dies without a male heir, the country could be destroyed by civil war. Henry VIII wants to annul his marriage of twenty years, and marry Anne Boleyn. The pope and Catholic Europe oppose him. The king’s quest for freedom destroys his adviser, the brilliant Cardinal Wolsey, and creates a years-long power struggle between the Church and the Crown.
Into this impasse steps Thomas Cromwell, a wholly original man, both a charmer and a bully, an idealist and an opportunist, astute in reading people and a demon of energy: Cromwell is a consummate politician, hardened by years abroad and his personal losses. Implacable in his ambition and self-taught–it is said that he can recite the entire New Testament from memory, knows Europe’s major languages, and speaks poetry freely–Cromwell soon becomes the country’s most powerful figure after Henry. When Henry pursues his desire to marry Anne Boleyn, it is Cromwell who breaks the deadlock and allows the king his heart’s desire. But Henry is volatile: one day tender, one day murderous. Cromwell helps him break the opposition–Tomas More, “the man for all seasons;” Katherine the queen; his daughter,t he princess Mary–but what will be the price of his triumph?
Witty and persuasive, Hilary Mantel presents a picture of a half-made society on the cusp of change, in which individuals fight or embrace their fate with passion and courage. Employing a vast array of historical characters, and a story overflowing with incident, [Mantel] re-creates an era when the personal and political are separated by a hairbreadth, where success brings unlimited power but a single failure means death.
Book report: You know, despite being half-crazed, overworked, and sick (I am now recovering from a bout of diverticulitis all ’round my appendix, which was a real fun time, let me tell you), I’ve actually gotten a fair amount of reading done this spring/summer, if less than usual. And a lot of what I read is worth sharing, so if you bear with me, I’ll try to unload it all at once, in as semi-organized a fashion as I am capable. Perhaps with a little less analysis–but does anyone even like that, anyways?
When I put Wolf Hall on my hold list at the MCL, I was 486th in line for it, but it only took maybe seven, eight months to get to me. I didn’t have much trouble holding out that long (patience is not numbered among my virtues), because I wasn’t really sure I actually wanted to read it (in part because someone had told me that it was hateful toward AB, and you know I am such a fangirl for her, but also because of that present tense thing). But everyone loved it, and it was about Thomas Cromwell, and it came rather sooner than I thought it would, so I kept it in my work bag and read it on my breaks and lunches. That habit kept me reading it longer than it would have taken me otherwise, but once I got past the first couple chapters and was hooked, I didn’t want it to end, so I dragged it out as long as I could. Because I loved it. Read the rest of this entry »
An Echo in the Bone by Diana Gabaldon
Delacorte Press, 4th printing, 2009
Genre: Historical fiction, romance
Jacket copy: Diana Gabaldon’s brilliant storytelling has captivated millions of readers in her bestselling and award-winning Outlander saga. Now, in An Echo in the Bone, the enormously anticipated seventh volume, Gabaldon continues the extraordinary story of the eighteenth-century Scotsman Jamie Fraser and his twentieth-century time-traveling wife, Claire Randall.
Jamie Fraser, former Jacobite and reluctant rebel, is already certain of three things about the American rebellion: The Americans will win, fighting on the side of victory is no guarantee of survival, and he’d rather die than have to face his illegitimate son–a young lieutenant in the British army–across the barrel of a gun.
Claire Randall knows that the Americans will win, too, but not what the ultimate price may be. That price won’t include Jamie’s life or his happiness, though–not if she has anything to say about it.
Meanwhile, in the relative safety of the twentieth century, Jamie and Claire’s daughter, Brianna, and her husband, Roger MacKenzie, have resettled in a historic Scottish home where, across a chasm of two centuries, the unfolding drama of Brianna’s parents’ story comes to life through Claire’s letters. The fragile pages reveal Claire’s love for battle-scarred Jamie Fraser and their flight from North Carolina to the high seas, where they encounter privateers and ocean battles–as Brianna and Roger search for clues not only to Claire’s fate but to their own. Because the future of the MacKenzie family in the Highlands is mysteriously, irrevocably, and intimately entwined with life and death in war-torn colonial America.
With stunning cameos of historical characters from Benedict Arnold to Benjamin Franklin, An Echo in the Bone is a soaring masterpiece of imagination, insight, character, and adventure–a novel that echoes in the mind long after the last page is turned.
Book Report: Upon reading the last page of this latest installment in the Outlander series, the adventures of a WWII nurse in the eighteenth century, my first response was “You’ve GOT to be kidding me!” For whatever reason–I have no idea why–I was convinced that this would be the seventh and FINAL installment.–and it isn’t. Bugger that for a lark. Read the rest of this entry »
Property by Valerie Martin
Nan A Talese/Doubleday, 1st edition, 2003
Genre: literary fiction, historical fiction
Set in the surreal heat of the antebellum South during a slave rebellion, Property takes the form of a dramatic monologue, bringing to the page a voice rarely heard in American fiction: the voice of a woman slave holder. Manon Gaudet is pretty and petulant, self-absorbed and bored. She has come to a sugar plantation north of New Orleans as a bride, bringing with her a prized piece of property, the young slave Sarah, only to see Sarah become her husband’s mistress and bear his child. As the whispers of a slave rebellion grow louder and more threatening, Manon speaks to us of her past and her present, her longings and dreams – an uncensored, pitch-perfect voice from the heart of moral darkness.
Property is riveting fiction, fast, richly plotted, shimmering with visual detail. It is also an invitation to re-examine the traditions of the Southern novel and the myth of the chivalrous South, and a haunting meditation on what Valerie Martin has called “the fantastic and constant perversity of the oppressor to feel victimized by the oppressed.”
Book Report: I stumbled acrost a description of Property somewhere on the Internets while at work late one night, and promptly requested it from the MCL.I was mildly surprised to discover the author was the same Valerie Martin as wrote Mary Reilly, a parallel novel I could never quite make up my mind on (though I have have read it more than once, which may be suggestive of something). It currently holds first place on my Overdue shelf, as I was unable to renew it due to hold, and refused to give it up till I’d written about it–no matter how long that might take. Was it worth the fines? Read the rest of this entry »
The Wolves of Willoughby Chase by Joan Aiken
originally published 1962
Delacourte, 1st edition, 2000
Genre: Children’s classic, historical fiction, COVENS
Book Report: Wicked wolves and a grim governess threaten Bonnie and her cousin Sylvia when Bonnie’s parents leave for a sea voyage. Left in the care of the cruel Miss Slighcarp, the girls can hardly believe what is happening to their lovely, once happy home. The servants are dismissed, the furniture is sold, and, dressed in rags, Bonnie and Sylvia are sent to a prison-like school for orphans. It seems as if the endless hours of drudgery will never cease.
With the help of Simon the gooseboy and his flock, they escape. But where will they go? And how will they ever get Willoughby Chase free from the clutches of the evil Miss Slighcarp?
OH SHIT YEAH. I used to have a copy of The Wolves of Willoughby Chase, and I read it ALL THE TIME. (What the hell happened to that book?) I set so many stories in Aiken’s world, and even had a long-running series of dreams in which I was in a summer camp overrun by giant wolves a la TWoWC (there were tunnels from cabin to cabin, and sometimes we traveled by rooftop). I still want to doze off in a cart full of geese and play with a giant stuffed pony with crystal eyes. Who wouldn’t? So it’s obvious that I was delighted to read Laura Lippman’s treatment of TWoWC in Shelf Discovery and find that I was not alone in my love for spunky orphans. Read the rest of this entry »
The Hearth and Eagle
originally published 1948
Chicago Review Press, 1st edition, 2008
Genre: Historical fiction, romance, family saga
Book Report: Hesper Honeywood is the sole scion of one of Marblehead, Massachusetts’ oldest families. Phebe and Mark Honeywood came over from England with John Winthrop, but left the Salem settlement to help found Marblehead, contrary from its very beginnings. Hesper has been raised on tales of their bravery and strength, as well as those of many other Honeywood and Marblehead folk. Young and passionate, Hesper is also heedless, caring more for love and romance than quiet strength or courage. But it is the vigor inherited from her forebears that will carry Hesper through the tragedy and fulfillment in her very long life, one that spans from the tumultuous antebellum years, through the rise and fall of Marblehead’s various industries, to gentrification and the Great War. Hesper will know love and passion, hatred and despair, and she, like her people before her, will endure.
Are all of Anya Seton’s books back in print now? When I first started reading her in 2005, it seemed like there there were just a couple, so I had to scour libraries and used bookshops looking for antiquated hardcover books and pulp paperbacks. But now there are all these sleek trade paperbacks with lovely covers! (It’s kind of funny, because in Olivia Goldsmith’s The Bestseller, there’s a lonely, half-senile old woman who wrote blockbuster historical fiction in the Forties and Fifties, only to be long out of print when the novel was written, and an editor at one of the publishing houses has to keep soothing her. I have a feeling Goldsmith based Anna Morrison on Anya Seton, but who had the last laugh there? Ooh, burn!) Unusually this edition of The Hearth and Eagle features only a short Author’s Note prefacing the novel, rather than the Forwards that have accompanied most of the others I’ve read form the Chicago Review Press. Is that because it was a less popular work, or have they just gotten lazy in the Windy City? Read the rest of this entry »