The Dream Lover: A Novel of George Sand by Elizabeth Berg
To be published: March 31, 2015
George Sand was way ahead of her time. The book starts out on the day Aurore (Sand’s real name) decided to leave her home in the French Countryside and her husband Casimir and try her luck at becoming a real novelist in Paris. It is a trial separation from her husband, and the story goes on to explain how she came to this point by jumping back and forth between her birth and after her move to Paris. She starts writing for a journal magazine when she is publishing her first couple of books and relying on her husband for income, to becoming totally independent with her own money and a string of lovers, both male and female. She starts dressing and acting like a man and eventually takes the pen name, George Sand. George is friends with writer Victor Hugo, artist Eugene Delacroix and composer Franz Liszt. She most famously tries to court the famous French actress Marie Dorval, composer Frederic Chopin and writers Alfred de Musset and Gustave Flaubert. 3 stars.
I have always been fascinated with George Sand, but never knew anything about her. So when I saw this historical fiction, I jumped at the chance to read about her. My biggest gripe about this book was the length. The book started off interesting, but then got really tedious. It was if the author was turning the book into an academic nonfiction instead of a historical fiction. It became another one of those Advanced Readers Copies that I was sloughing through, having to review because I promised to, instead of because I was enjoying it.
Overall, I really enjoyed the story and she was an intriguing character both in her personal and professional life, a woman who didn’t take no for an answer in an age when women always took the backseat and did whatever their husbands told them to do. I never knew that she had children and it was cool that her son got to apprentice with Eugene Delacroix, the Romantic French painter so famous for paintings like Liberty Leading the People (28th July 1830), and later became a writer in his own right. George was also very political, even starting her own political journal and supporting worker’s rights. She led a pretty sad life with her father and brother dying young, her mother abandoning her, her tempetuous relationship with her grandmother, and her horrible relationship with her husband. It seems like she never really found happiness in love, but only in the her books. I would like read some of her own writing and would pick either Lelia, Indiana, or Consuela.
Disclaimer: I received a copy of the book from the author, in exchange for my honest review.
Perdita by Hilary Scharper
To be published: January 1, 2015
Garth Hellyer is a historian in charge of the Longevity Project, which is collecting oral histories of the oldest people in Canada. A woman at a nursing home claims to be 134 years old and shows him her birth certificate to prove it. When he is obviously skeptical, she decides to give him her personal journals, which start in 1897 and document the life of Marged Brice. They tell the story of what life was like in the Georgian Bay of Ontario and the Cape Prius Lighthouse at the turn of the century, especially in the context of this vibrant young woman and her natural connection with its landscape and its people. It shows a tale of love, loss and a bit of redemption, which is mirrored in its modern day accompaniment story. Just who is Perdita and what is her connection to Ms. Brice? Is Marged really who she says she is? 4 stars.
I liked the cover of this book and the initial premise sounded interesting. I actually loved the incredibly detailed descriptions of the nineteenth century part of this book, but wasn’t so much a fan of the modern day story. It wasn’t until after I read the book that I saw it compared to Wuthering Heights and Jane Eyre and I can definitely see aspects of them in the romantic brooding story. I liked that the book was mostly a historical fiction mystery with a little mythology thrown in for good measure, but I think the book got a bit bogged down by the mythology. It was nearly 3/4 the way through the book before we figured out who Perdita actually was and her true importance to both Marged and Garth. I also liked the way the author kept you guessing as to who was the true love of Marged’s life.
Disclaimer: I received this advanced reader’s copy from the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for my honest review.
The Legend of Sheba: Rise of a Queen by Tosca Lee
To be published: Sept 9, 2014
Set in tenth century B.C.E., Bilqis is the daughter of one of the most beautiful wives of the King of Saba, also known as Sheba (located in modern-day Yemen). After her mother passes away, she is targeted by the new wife and forced to flee to her mother’s homeland of Punt (the actual location is disputed, but we’ll say that it is in modern-day Ethiopia). She takes on a new identity and becomes Makeda. Once she becomes eighteen and her father is gravely ill, she is taken back to Saba and successfully regains the throne. King Solomon of Judea, famous for his hundreds of wives which provided many alliances and his wealth, starts up a correspondence with the Queen and this continues for awhile until he demands she send an emissary. Lonely and intrigued by this man, she decides to go herself to see him. What happens next is written in the Bible, the Qu’ran and other texts.
I will admit that I originally picked up this book after reading Jonathan Stroud’s Bartimaeus book The Ring of Solomon, which briefly mentioned both King Solomon and the Queen of Sheba. Also, I did an art talk on Ethiopian Orthodox art and happened upon the origin story The Glory of the Kings, which describes the Ethiopian kings being descended from the mythical Queen of Sheba and King Solomon, made me curious to know more about her. It reminded me of something of both Ancient Egyptian history and the Arabian Nights. I love books about strong historical women and this book did not disappoint in that regard. I love that she conquered Solomon with her words and by not revealing her face for most of the storyline! I was glad that she managed to find some true love, despite the tragedy in her life. I think I liked and respected her more because she did not grow up a privileged brat but rather had to fend for herself and fight to be independent as a ruler and lover. Highly recommended, 5 stars.
Disclaimer: I received this advanced reader’s copy book via Netgalley in exchange for my honest review.
Bittersweet: A Novel by Colleen McCullough
ARC from Edelweiss
To be published: August 19, 2014
This book is the story of the four Latimer sisters, two sets of twins, named Edda, Grace, Tufts and Kitty. They live with their father, a Church of England rector, and their stepmother in 1920’s Australia. The girls are going to be the first formerly trained nurses in Corunda, a prosperous town outside of Sydney. There is a lot of resistance to them to be thus trained not only by the un-trained female nursing staff already in the hospital as well people who don’t think the girls should be able to live on their own as unmarried women. The book chronicles not only the girls settling into their jobs as new trained nurses (which made me think of the Call the Midwife book and TV series, though it was set about 30 years later in England), but also how they each matured on their own in their personal and emotional lives. The story chronicles not only the sisters but also the lives of common Australian folk during the Depression of the 1930s, a story not usually told outside of the US. 3-1/2 stars.
Ok, I will admit that I originally picked up this novel because I had read The Thornbirds by the same author after watching the 1980s miniseries, and really enjoyed them. This one sounded just as interesting, so I decided to give it a try as well. Overall, I really enjoyed the story, even though it seemed to have suddenly ended just as it was getting interesting. I really think the author should’ve divided this story into two books or possibly one book per sister as that would make a better “romantic saga” as the publishers are terming the book. One of the things I did really like about the book is that the author had excellent vocabulary. The complex nature of the words used impressed me, and I found myself looking a lot up, which doesn’t bother me. I like books that educate me. I also liked learning about the Australian Depression, which I did not previously know that much about. I knew a little bit it as my paternal grandmother had grown up around Sydney during this time period, and she had told me some things.
Edda was probably my favorite sister, or the one I could most identify with as she was not afraid to speak her mind and was the most independent and knew exactly what she wanted out of life. Grace and Kitty started out weak, but eventually became much more complex characters as the story progressed. I also really liked Tufts as she ended up being the more research-minded sister, content to be a teacher though she does end up with a much more public job by the end of the book. I thought Jack’s character was a little weak, but I’m glad he was able to find happiness in someone. Charles Burdum was an interesting character, and I have definitely met men like him before. I would’ve liked to hear more about Dorcas as she was only included in the last part of the book.
Disclaimer: I received this advanced reader’s copy book via Edelweiss in exchange for my honest review.