We all know of the life and work of Charles Dickens, in fact two of my all time favorite novels Great Expectations and David Copperfield are the works of Dickens, born in 1812 in England.
Through out his very public life Dickens carefully crafted his persona as a gentile man of the Victorian era with a wife, family and a marvelous talent to create fictional characters and stories that would endure.
“Dickens is remembered as one of the most important and influential writers of the 19th century. Among his accomplishments, he has been lauded for providing a stark portrait of the Victorian-era underclass, helping to bring about social change.” – Biography.com
Front and center during his entire life as a man of virtue – Dickens was leading a double life for more than a decade, as he had a love affair with Ellen “Nelly” Ternen for the last thirteen years of his life.
With tenacious persistence Dickens and those closest to him managed to efface Nelly Ternen from public record and most all association with Dickens.
But talented biographer Claire Tomalin sleuths the facts like a well-heeled detective and brings convincing evidence to light about Nelly Ternen’s life, Dickens’ deception and how their affair managed to escape the public’s notice for decades.
A remarkable tale of both Victorian life for men and women as well as a brilliant story of research and persistence.
If you are one of our many faithful Reading Wednesday followers you will know that I adore Ken Follett. I’ve read several of his books. They are both marvelous as book in hand and on audible. My favorite Follett is Pillars of the Earth and I have recently also read Fall of Giants. And today I will share my book review of A Place Called Freedom by Ken Follett.
Like other Follett novels, A Place Called Freedom creates a chronicle of generations. Mixing historical facts, people and events with fictional characters and places – Follett brilliantly weaves his saga.
In A Place Called Freedom we meet Mack McAsh, a Scottish coal miners son, destine to a life in “the pit” during a period that begins in 1767. During this time miners are forced to a life of serfdom, once they begin working in the mines they must never leave. McAsh sees more for his life and eventually escapes and becomes a leader in the working-class discontent of the time.
Lizzie Hallim, a young woman of wealth and privilege who is expected to marry into the wealthy Jamieson family, owners the mines, lives a very different kind of life from Mack. But soon enough Lizzie realizes the hardship the minors endure and the reality she has been so blind to.
Lizzie eventually falls for the wrong Jamieson brother, exacerbating a hateful relationship between brothers and father and step mother.
A well written and believable cast of characters develops through the book during a tumultuous period of serfdom and slavery, wealth and prosperity, female repression and class injustice, creating a ripe opportunity for the characters to flee to the new American colonies and A Place Called Freedom.
A couple of months ago I read Kate Quinn’s The Alice Network and I really enjoyed it. So I decided to tackle her new book The Huntress. And I loved it even more. Here is my book Review of The Huntress by Kate Quinn.
Quinn introduces an intriguing cast of characters in The Huntress – a post World War Two novel built around the search for Nazi war criminals.
Nina Markova, raised in Siberia, turned Russian fighter pilot known as the Night Witches. Witness to unthinkable atrocities and dealing with her own pain and loss, with deep and disturbing memories of hate and revenge.
Ian Graham, British War Correspondent unable to let go of his own personal search for one particular war criminal, a woman known as The Huntress.
Jordan McBride, Boston teenager and aspiring photographer, Jordan wants to forget the war, move forward and live a life of her choosing.
Anneliese McBride, Jordan’s new step-mother, appears friendly and engaged in her new American life, but something underlies the perfect facade she allows.
This book is tightly written, with a believable plot that develops a different side of oft overdone WWII story. Quinn’s attention to research and detail is apparent in the mix of fact and fiction from descriptive landscape passages to intense emotional drama of the characters’ past and present.
In the end the reality is all of them are The Huntress. See for yourself if you agree.
I really loved this book and highly recommend The Huntress by Kate Quinn.
Five Stars for The Huntress. Read last week’s review of The Immortalists.
Spectacular novel by very young yet brilliant author Benjamin – her second effort and she really hit it out of the ballpark with The Immortalists.
I get giddy with bookie happiness when I find a novel with a unique and fresh plot – and that is decidedly what you get with The Immortalists.
If you were told when you were a child the exact date you would die, how might that information change the way you live? This is the theme of this brilliant family story…a story of children who carry the weight of this knowledge, a story of families with a burden to bare, and a story of a prophecy that will haunt the lives of four siblings for decades.
Sweeping in both scope and and ambition, Benjamin creates lovable characters, heartfelt and passionate human beings whose lives carry forward trailblazing the deep powerful prediction and what to do with this cognizance.
The Immortalists core question focuses on the line between destiny and choice, reality and illusion, religion and afterlife and most of all, family and aging.
I loved this novel and look forward to reading more by Chloe Benjamin.
Wow. This book. I’m not usually one to go for a “thriller” book, but this story sucked me in and I was riveted.
Similar to novels like Gone Girl (but not as good), Pieces of Her develops a plot of twists and turns, whodunnit and “who the heck are you”, as Andrea Olive struggles to determine the true identity of her mother.
When Andrea and her mother Laura find themselves the witnesses to a horrific crime, a crime that leads Laura to kill the perpetrator at the scene before he can murder more people, Andrea’s world comes tumbling down.
A video tape of the terrorist and his demise at Laura’s hands circulates on the news, and with it Laura’s secret life unravels and her enemies catch up to her after decades of being on the run.
Andrea is thrust into this mystery as she runs from the danger, finding a trail of a woman, her mother, whom she never knew. Who is this woman and why has she spent her life in hiding? Andrea begins to put the puzzle together bit by bit, finding herself in danger but determined to uncover the identity her mother walked away from decades before.
⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️Four stars for Pieces of Her by Karin Slaughter. Read last week’s review of The Birth of Venus.
This is a beautifully rich tale of life and death, love and art in Florence Italy during the tumultuous 15th century. Told in first person from the viewpoint of a young Florentine girl, but told as her final life’s work as an old woman.
The young girl, Alessandra Cecchi, daughter of a rich textile merchant in Florence, knows she isn’t like her sister or other girls around her. Her passion of art and learning overpowers her, and alienates her from the life of sewing and searching for a rich husband.
Alessandra is also tall, awkward and not beautiful like her sister. Called a “giraffe” by her hateful sibling Tomaso, Allesandra searches for meaning to her life.
Alessandra falls for “the painter” who has been commissioned to paint the ceiling of her families chapel. But she marries a chosen husband “Cristoforo” who turns out to only have married Alessandra to appear heterosexual, which he is not.
During a terribly violent time in Florence as the church and the people battle for control, Alessandra lives a tumultuous life of her own not able to love the one she wants.
After I finished the book I spent some time in a discussion group about the book, interested in what other readers theories were about if “the painter” in the story is supposed to be a real person from the era. Certainly the book weaves real characters with fictional ones, and towards the end of the book there is a reference to Michelangelo that made me think this is who it was supposed to be. In the discussion group there was a wide range of strong opinions, and nobody seemed to know for sure. Theories included Michelangelo, DaVinci and several other 15th century painters.
Only Sarah Durant knows for sure.
A beautiful story about a period in history I knew little about.
⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ Four stars for The Birth of Venus by Sarah Durant.
Read last week’s review of The Clockmaker’s Daughter.
It’s rare anymore that I read a real book I can hold in my hand. It’s a special treat and I always want it to be a book I love…one I can curl up and enjoy. The Clockmaker’s Daughter by Kate Morton was one of those books.
This story travels across decades and is told in multiple voices, traversing time and characters with one anchor to it all – Birchwood Manor outside of London.
From 1854 to 2017 we follow the house and the cast of characters who occupy it, own it, love it, go to school in it, visit it, stumble upon it, search it and haunt it.
It’s a clever way to inspire a story that spans multiple generations. I really enjoyed the characters and the twists and turns Kate Morton was able to generate bringing her readers into the novel and easily navigating the 160 year span of time the book covers.
A great read.
⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️Five stars for The Clockmaker’s Daughter by Kate Morton.