Sunday, January 27, 2013

The House of Windjammer (Book Review)

Title: The House of Windjammer (Book 1)
Author: V. A. Richardson
Publication Information: Bloomsbury Hardcover, 2003
Genre: YA Historical Fiction

Plot: 17th Century Holland: the Windjammer family has been a prominent part of the Dutch community for generations and its shipping fleet is heavily invested in trade to the New World. When the shipwreck of four laden galleons causes financial disaster, 15-year-old Adam becomes the heir to the House of Windjammer with the overwhelming responsibility of saving the family fortune and reputation. He is hindered by his father’s enemy, the evil banker Hugo van Helsen, whose lovely daughter Jade may also be Adam’s enemy – or his only trusted ally in a city of treachery, danger and despair.
What I liked: I don’t object to books where the main character is a boy but Jade van Helsen is a more interesting character than Adam. Although the reader (perhaps more knowledgeable about these situations than Adam) wants to trust her, she has her own agenda and it is not completely clear if she is helping Adam because she likes him and recognizes her father’s villainy or whether she has her own agenda.

Holland is an unusual and interesting setting for historical fiction. Not long ago I found one of my mother’s childhood favorites, None but the Brave, which I recommend. I liked that the background of this story includes the theme of tulip madness, as Holland suddenly realizes the export potential of tulips. Our friends at Wikipedia say that "[b]y 1636 the tulip bulb became the fourth leading export product of the Netherlands—after gin, herring and cheese. The price of tulips skyrocketed because of speculation in tulip futures among people who never saw the bulbs. Many men made and lost fortunes overnight, to the consternation of Calvinist elites who abhorred this artificial frenzy that denied the virtues of moderation, discretion and genuine work."

What I disliked: For plot purposes, I can see why everyone in the book treats Adam as a child but surely a boy of 15 in 1636 would have already been working with his father in the family business even if he had difficulty persuading older and wiser members of the business community to trust his judgment and/or maintain loyalty to the Windjammer.

Source: Unusually for me, I had not heard or read about this book, but when I came across it in a pile of books I was intrigued by the cover and bought it on the spot. I will certainly read more in this series and will share with my eldest nephew.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Top 10 Most Romantic Anne Shirley and Gilbert Blythe Moments

You may not be surprised to hear I own four copies of Anne of Green Gables. One, my original copy and favorite, is missing – I think it is a mustard-colored Grosset & Dunlap paperback with Anne past her ugly duckling phase, in a sort of photographic cover, wearing an organdy white dress and with smooth auburn tresses.  Does anyone know that one?  I gave away an ugly Scholastic paperback and an unattractive (albeit useful) anthology of books 1-3 or I would have six.
The brilliant Stephanie Lucianovic of the Grub Report recently listed what she considered Top Ten Most Romantic Betsy Ray-Joe Willard Moments, and someone asserted that it would be hard to come up with a similar list for Anne Shirley and Gilbert Blythe. I disagree: