Tag Archives: Historical Fiction

Go Set A Watchman

go set a watchmanIt’s not often that I can sit back and devour a book but yesterday, I did exactly that with Harper Lee’s Go Set a Watchman.  When this book was announced earlier this year, I immediately pre-ordered it from Amazon and have been waiting on it to arrive anxiously.  I loved Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird and I couldn’t wait to dig into Go Set A Watchman.  And I have to say, I was not disappointed.

Over the past few weeks there has been quite a bit of controversy over this book after it was revealed that Atticus Finch is portrayed as a racist.  Atticus, for many, has come to represent that epitome of humility, equality, and respect.  In To Kill a Mockingbird, Atticus stood up for what was right, taught his children valuable lessons about people and race, and became one of the most beloved characters of American literature.  So for many, Atticus as a racist was a hard pill to swallow.  Lee absolutely does portray Atticus with racist characteristics in Go Set a Watchman and that was hard for me to read at certain points in the book.  However, I think it is a dose of reality.  To Kill a Mockingbird is very much a story about Scout’s childhood and a child views her father very differently from the way an adult would.  This novel is set two decades after the events in To Kill a Mockingbird so of course Scout has grown up and now sees things differently.  She sees Atticus differently and notices things about him that she probably wouldn’t have noticed as a child.  Atticus still wants to do what is right but I think Scout is just able to finally see a different side of him as an adult.  I still found Atticus respectable even if I didn’t always agree with everything he said.  Also, just like many readers, Scout also has a lot of trouble rectifying the father she once knew with the new things she finds out about Atticus in this novel.  Scout’s struggle with this is one of the main plot points of the entire novel.

What I think is most poignant about this novel is that it very much pertains to all that has been in the news lately.  The difference between Atticus and Scout in this novel really highlights the conversations that are still taking place in our country.  The conversations between Atticus and Scout are still very relevant.  I think Scout’s plight in this novel is reminiscent of what many people of my generation are dealing with right now.  With all the talk about race in our country right now, I think many younger people are seeing elders that they always respected suddenly showing a very racist side.  Sometimes it is hard to grasp that the people you respect the most are not on board with what you think they should believe.  This book very much seems to me a big dose of truth and reality.

As far as writing, I really enjoyed the writing style.  Lee did a fantastic job.  There were some spots that were clearly not her best writing, however, that is something I could overlook considering that Lee wrote this years ago without the intention to publish it.  She supposedly requested that it finally be published without any changes or input from an editor and I think that has to be considered when judging her writing.

Overall, I really enjoyed this book.  It was hard at times to read, especially if you are attached to the Atticus everyone knows from To Kill a Mockingbird like I am.  However, it is well-written for the most part and I believe it is a poignant and timely statement about racial relations in the U.S.  I gave it a four out of five stores and would definitely recommend it.

fourstar

1066: What Fates Impose

18842784In high school and college, I had several instructors who required their students to memorize dates for the history courses that I took.  One date that was always required was 1066.  As history major, I am very familiar with the Battle of Hastings so this book made it to my “to-read” list pretty easily. It probably would have stayed on my list of books to read for a bit longer, but when the author, G. K. Holloway, contacted me about reviewing the book I jumped on the opportunity.  Mr. Holloway provided me with a copy of his book which I greatly appreciate.

The first part of the book sets up the background history to the actual battle very nicely.  There is a lot of politics and history in this portion of the book.  The narrative follows several members of several families.  Holloway includes a character list at the beginning of the book which I was grateful for during the first half of the book.  It was nice that I was able to refer to the character list to help keep all the families and characters straight in my mind.  The first half of this book went a bit slow for me. I’m not sure if it was the actual book or the fact that I was studying for the GRE test and preparing to start my master’s degree in history.  Once I took the GRE exam, this book really picked up for me so I tend to think that the slow start was due to my own personal time management issues rather than the book itself.

The second half the book was a much easier read for me.  I was very engaged in the book by the second half and it just seemed to fly by.  Even though I knew how the story would end, I was still eager to keep reading.  Holloway did a fantastic job of vividly painting a gripping narrative of the Battle of Hastings.

Holloway’s writing was excellent.  The book flowed well and I found I could almost relate to some of the characters.  It is also very evident that he did his research.  It was not hard to see that he spent a lot of time delving into the history of this time period and the events in the book.  It is the first historical novel that I have read in a long time that I felt as if I was also getting a commentary on life during the time period.

If you are interested in historical fiction or British history, I highly recommend this book.  I gave it a solid four star rating.

fourstar

The Sea Garden

the sea garden The Sea Garden by Deborah Lawrenson is divided into three separate novellas that do not seem to be connected too closely for most of the book. The first novella begins with an award winning garden designer traveling to a small island off the coast of France to restore a historical garden. Once she arrives on the island she meets a whole host of mysterious characters and the reader starts to realize that things are not quite what they seem.

The second and third novella transport the reader back to World War II. I enjoyed these two novellas much more than the first one. Each of the novellas was a short and interesting story but none of them really grabbed me and pulled me into the book. Towards the end of the third novella the author connects all three stories together. While it makes for a beautiful overall story, it began to feel very rushed at towards the end of the book. The last fifty pages it felt as if the author was trying to just hurry and wrap the book up. I think I would have enjoyed this book a bit more if the author had flushed the ending out a bit more.

Overall, I rated this book three stars. It was not my favorite book but it was well written and an interesting story.

threestar

All the Light We Cannot See

18143977 All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr tells the story of two teenagers during World War II.  Marie-Laure is sixteen and blind.  She lives in Paris with her father. Werner is sixteen and an orphan.  He lives in Germany where he is forced into service early.  His mechanical talent with radio equipment makes him a valuable commodity to the Germans.  Marie-Laure and Werner’s paths will cross briefly in one of the most endearing ways.

When  I started this book, I did not know much about the story.  I was aware that a main character was blind and that the story would take place during World War II.  After just a few chapters, I was already falling in love with the characters.  Doerr writes beautifully and weaves delicate themes throughout this narrative.  His descriptions often made me feel as if I was in France smelling the salty sea air with Marie-Laure. For me, Doerr’s writing made this one of those books that I desperately did not want to end but at the same time I couldn’t put it down.

While this book is lengthy, each chapter is very short, often only a page or two. I think this is evidence of the author’s background as a short story writer.  If you are hesitant to start this novel because of its size, I encourage you to try it anyway.  The short chapters break it into more manageable pieces and this truly is a book that you don’t want to miss out on.

Overall, I gave this book five stars.  I enjoyed the narrative and the beautiful language in this story.  Even though things did not always end as well as I would have liked, I found myself involved in the story and rooting for the characters.

 

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