Wednesday, July 27, 2011

The Legacy by Katherine Webb

I was intrigued by this novel and was lucky to receive an ARC from Netgalley.  Erica and Beth return to the family estate of Storton Manor after their Grandmother dies, leaving the estate to them with some stipulations:  if they want to inherit it, they must both live there.  If not, it will be sold, and they receive nothing.

This may sound like an easy way to make a lot of money, but there are issues:  their Grandmother Meredith, was a cruel woman who made their summer visits miserable.  Their cousin Henry also disappeared one day from the Manor over twenty years before, and was never seen again.  Beth is haunted by this place, and by Henry's disappearance.  It has sunk her into a deep depression that she cannot seem to shake.  Erica believes if they live at the Manor, she can help Beth overcome her depression, and solve the mystery of Henry and what happened that long ago summer.

Dinny, a childhood friend, shows up and emotions from long ago surface between Beth, Erica, and Dinny.  He's a traveler, and his family has been part of the Manor's life for decades, all the way back to when Caroline, Meredith's mother, was the Lady of the Manor.

Caroline's story from 1902-1905 is interspersed with present day, and I found her story to be heartbreaking.  Caroline's story and the choices she made color the lives of Beth, Erica, and Dinny in present day.  I finished the book with a heavy heart for Caroline.  Her story will make you wonder at the depths of grief, and what it  can do to a person.

I throughly enjoyed this novel, and the two mysteries to be solved--what was Caroline's story, and what happened to Henry?  Erica is a strong character, and her desire to "cure" her sister of her depression is what drives her to keep digging into the past.

This is definitely a novel for fans of Kate Morton.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

13, Rue Therese by Elena Mauli Shapiro

This book was on my list for a long time, and I'm glad I finally got a chance to read it.  The author based this novel on a box she received when an elderly woman in her apartment building died without any relatives to claim her belongings.  Elena used the box which contained pictures, old letters, and other mementos from this woman's life to write this novel.  Pretty darn good idea!

The novel is about an American professor, Trevor Stratton, who arrives in Paris to teach at a university.  His secretary, the mysterious Josianne leaves a box tucked away in his office.  Eventually he finds it, and begins to piece together a life around the objects he's found in the box.  That life belongs to Louise Brunet, a woman who lived through both world wars, and most of the story takes place in 1928.  The more Trevor delves into the letters, rosary, and photos he finds, the more Louise's story becomes intriguing.  Married to a jeweler, she mourns the loss of her cousin Camille, her first love who died in The Great War, and her inability to get pregnant after years of marriage.  She is one restless woman.  

But how much of this is true, and how much is Trevor making up?  Where does the line between reality and fantasy blur?  It really is a fascinating read.  I was a bit surprised at the end--I guess I just wasn't paying enough attention to see it coming.  Read it and see, and let me know what you think.  This book is one to linger over; the author has put in pictures of everything Trevor finds in the box, so you can see exactly what he's talking about.  It was a treat to read something very different; the author put a lot of thought into this story, and I appreciate how much work that must have been.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Join My Book Club!

Some of you know I have another blog that is called The Talking Leaf Book Club.  It's fairly new; we are on our third book and are currently picking the next three books we want to read.

I know so many of you read and I would love to have more people join my book club!  It's super easy--just read the book for that month, and post comments as you go along.  I post some questions during the course of the month and you can either ignore them, or let the rest of us know what you think of the book.  If you skip a month, it's no big deal.  I promise I won't kick you out of the club.

So really, what are you waiting for?   Go to The Talking Leaf Book Club and vote for your choices for the next three months.  We are currently reading The Great House by Nicole Krauss.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Nothing Daunted by Dorothy Wickenden

Nothing Daunted by Dorothy Wickenden is about Dorothy's grandmother,  Dorothy Woodruff, and her best friend Rosamond Underwood and their experience as school teachers in the wilds of Colorado in 1916-1917.  Both families had kept all the letters both Dorothy and Ros wrote to them during their adventures out West, and this book is the result.

I loved this book, and was rather sad to finish it.  First of all, these women were such good friends--they met in school, and maintained a life-long friendship through college, Colorado, and their marriages, where they lived far apart.  They were funny, adventurous, clever, and so admiring of the women homesteaders they met living in Colorado.  Both women had said their year in Colorado was the best year of their lives.

What makes their story a bit different is that both women came from wealthy families in Auburn, New York.  They went to Smith college, and then spent a year traveling around Europe.  Marriage or a career as a nurse or a teacher were their only options, but neither was ready for marriage.  The opportunity to teach in a one room school house outside Hayden, Colorado came up, and they jumped at the chance to have one more adventure in their late 20's.

The photos in each chapter help put a face to the characters--and they are characters.  Farrington Carpenter plays a large part in their story--he's a Harvard educated lawyer/rancher who's plan to have a good school for the local kids brings Dorothy and Ros to Colorado.  They don't realize that Farrington has another motive--there are many single men around, looking for wives.  He hopes to make a few matches!

I admire Dorothy and Ros.  With their family's blessings, they set out into the wilds of Colorado, with no teaching experience, and living a live of comfort, to enthusiastically embrace whatever they found.  Both fell in love with Colorado, the people, and the school.  They never complained and cheerfully jumped into their new lives without reservation.

This book has set in motion, once again, my desire to return to Colorado and visit more places!  I am always struck by the courage and determination that so many women showed moving away from home, living in harsh conditions, and making the best with what they had.  So tough--what a gift they left us all.