Tuesday, December 31, 2019

Favorite Reads of 2019

Happy New Year and wishing you many delightful reads in 2020! I am enjoying seeing other people's "Best of" year-end lists, even when I haven't read any of their books.  There is always room on my TBR pile for books that sound appealing.

Historical Fiction
Dear Mrs. Bird by A.J. Pearce (2018)
This wound up being my favorite book of the year!  A warm and emotional story of a young woman who yearns to be a war correspondent during WWII but finds a job instead working on advice magazine during the day (what the Brits call an Agony Aunt) while doing her bit for the war at night as bombs fall.  You know how much I like books with WWII settings but some have become almost a cliche of tired plots.   This was fresh and appealing, humorous at times, heartbreaking at others, and altogether delightful. Those who remember Dear Lovey Hart will love it.

Thursday, December 19, 2019

Through the Evil Days by Julia Spencer-Fleming

Title: Through the Evil Days 
Author:  Julia Spencer-Fleming
Publication: St. Martin’s/Minotaur, hardcover, 2013
Genre: Mystery

Plot: In the tense and emotional eighth book of the series, Chief of Police Russ Van Alstyne and Reverend Clare Fergusson are finally married but their lives remain professionally and personally complicated.  Clare is pregnant (as we learned at the very end of the last book), Russ is unhappy about becoming a parent at what he considered his advanced age, and a fire and related kidnapping threatens to derail their postponed honeymoon.  In the meantime, Hadley Knox, a relatively recent addition to the Millers Kill police force, is somewhat regretting having blown off coworker Kevin Flynn merely because he’s younger and she is getting over a bad divorce (soon she will have real problems!).   When Russ and Clare finally leave town for a week to “enjoy” an isolated cottage convenient to ice fishing (my idea of hell), they find the criminals are hiding out nearby.  Marooned by bad weather, Russ and Clare are caught between old rivalries and new enemies.

My Impressions: Despite the fact that Julia Spencer-Fleming is one of my favorite authors, I somehow had been saving this so long for a special occasion that I hadn’t read even read it! (I suspect my mother borrowed it and did not return it promptly but it is nice that she and my sisters and I all like this author so much.)  I reread One Was a Soldier to get in the mood – that is really exceptionally well done with flashbacks that advance the plot instead of exasperating the reader (a pet peeve) and vivid characters.   While I enjoyed this one, I had a hard time following the plot and need to reread it to fully grasp what was going on.  Russ is a pain for most of the book but I especially like Hadley and Kevin and was hoping things would work out for them: great cliffhanger ending!

One advantage of waiting this long to read Through the Evil Days is that her new book, Hid from Our Eyes, is coming out in April!   I had missed the sad news that Ms. Spencer-Fleming lost her husband in 2017; I am sure that getting back to writing after such a loss is much harder than simply going back to an office, so I am glad she was able to finish a new book and I hope it was a good distraction for her.

This is the tenth of twelve books that are part of my 2019 TBR Challenge, inspired by Adam at Roof Beam Reader, to prioritize some of my unread piles.  Two more to read by the end of the year!

Off the Blog: Merry Impeachmas!

Source: I highly recommend this series but do suggest you begin at the beginning with In the Bleak Midwinter.  My mother and I enjoyed meeting Julia Spencer-Fleming at the Brookline Library several years ago and I thus own an autographed hardcover.  She told us her daughter was studying for an MLIS at Simmons, making a tough commute down from Maine.  My mother, a (retired) librarian, sympathized as she commuted to URI while earning her library degree.  

Saturday, December 14, 2019

Virtual Advent Calendar

Thank you to Sprite Writes for including me in the Virtual Advent Tour she has organized for five years. For those who don’t know, Advent is the liturgical season leading up to Christmas which includes the four preceding Sundays. 
Can you guess?  See below.
This post is about a family tradition started by my father, who we lost three years ago.  I think about him whenever I wrap a present because, although he was not good at shopping, when he came up with a gift he enjoyed making tricky tags!  He would add a message to the tag but put dashes instead of some of the letters so the recipient would have to guess what was inside.   The first one I remember was a little datebook when I was in high school or college, with a tag said something like, “For CLM, so she will K _ _ W   WH _  _  E  TO  G _.

They got more complicated over the years and the rest of the family occasionally joins in.  You have to strike the right balance between a little mystery but not so obscure no one can hazard a guess! 
I think Buddy was telling me to look in the box for some awesome gardener's gloves that go practically to my elbows, protecting me from poison ivy!   (Not that they keep the plants alive - now, that would be quite a gift!)
I found this one from several years ago stuck to some wrapping paper.  I am trying to guess what it stands for!  We'll have to see if my brother remembers.

* * *

Answer to Samantha's tag:  Quiet Moment.  Yes, any working mother with three children and a dog finds that quiet moments are in short supply. 

Thursday, December 12, 2019

The American Heiress by Daisy Goodwin

Title: The American Heiress
Author:  Daisy Goodwin
Publication: St. Martin’s, paperback, 2010
Genre: Historical Fiction
The American Heiress is the ninth of twelve books that are part of my 2019 TBR Challenge, inspired by Adam at Roof Beam Reader, to prioritize some of my unread piles.  I have another one read but not yet reviewed and two more to read by December 31st.  Can she do it?

Plot: Cora Cash is the beautiful daughter of an affluent and ambitious mother, who wants English nobility for a son-in-law.  Following a glamorous (although marred by a fire) ball in Newport, Cora leaves behind her local admirers and heads to England with her mother and her shrewd black maid, Bertha.  Conveniently, Cora immediately encounters a very eligible bachelor, the Duke of Wareham, who is high on pedigree but low on cash, and unenthusiastically recognizes an opportunity when he sees one.  The reader, if not Cora, anticipates the obstacles in the way of turning a marriage of convenience into a relatively happy union (condescending servants, jilted lovers, shrewish mother-in-law, poor heating) but there is more to Cora than desire for status.   Cora slowly learns how to defend herself and begins to figure out what she needs to do to master her new position, act befitting a duchess, and cope with her moody husband in what turns out to be an entertaining novel. 

My Impressions: By chance, I happened to read two books called The American Heiress close together and this one, although enjoyable, suffered a little in comparison to the one by Dorothy Eden, which is also about a rich New York heiress determined to marry into the English nobility.   The difference is that Eden’s heroine is actually the maid and half-sister of the heiress.  When the real heiress and ambitious mother go down with the Lusitania as they head to England for the wedding, Hetty begins a dangerous masquerade.  Like Cora, she is tormented by her mother-in-law, snobbish servants, and a jealous ex-girlfriend of her new husband but somehow the story is more fun and more suspenseful.  Still, both Cora and Hetty have to muster their wits to cope with their new lives and in each book that is the most interesting part of the story, as we have seen plenty of Newport parties and drafty English house parties elsewhere, haven’t we?  

Sadly, Cora has little loyalty to her maid Bertha, who accompanies her to England, despite suspecting she will never see her family in the South again.  Bertha is not treated well by the English servants and she is lonely except for the friendship of the Duke’s manservant. Bertha yearns for independence and security, and suspects her days with Cora are numbered because the Duke resents her possible influence on Cora, so tries to save her wages so she can one day have her own business.  This is an interesting contrast to Cora, who may not be thrilled with her husband but cannot seem to imagine a future without a man.  Her parents, having bought her the Duke with a generous dowry, are not interested in any dissatisfaction she may have with her bargain.

Off the Blog: I am making deviled eggs for the OWD holiday party, which I now wish I had done last night!   My friend Barb suggested a clever way to get them out of the shell by shaking them in a jar with a lid: of course, I cannot find a jar that is suitable.

Source: Personal copy

Thursday, December 5, 2019

Six Degrees of Separation: from Sanditon to Mrs. Tim Christie

Six Degrees of Separation is a monthly link-up hosted by Kate at Books Are My Favourite and Best. Each month a book is chosen as a starting point and linked to six other books to form a chain. A book doesn’t need to be connected to all the other books on the list, only to the one next to it in the chain.

Sanditon, the unfinished Jane Austen, was Kate’s starting book. I read this long ago and unfortunately don’t remember it at all.  However, I am looking forward to the new dramatization on Masterpiece Theatre beginning January 12, 2020.
Joan Aiken came to mind because I thought she had completed Sanditon, but "her" Austen is Emma Watson, The Watsons Completed, which is my first book (not to be confused with actress Emma Watson!). 

Saturday, November 30, 2019

The Long Call by Ann Cleeves

Title: The Long Call, Two Rivers #1 
Author:  Ann Cleeves
Publication: Minotaur Books, hardcover, October 2019
Genre: Mystery/series

Plot: In the first of a new series, Matthew Venn, a Detective Inspector in North Devon is watching his father’s funeral from a distance when, moments later, he learns a body has been found near the home he shares with his husband, Jonathan.  Matthew became estranged from his family due to his rejection of his parents’ evangelical religion, the Barum Brethren, but he puts his familial angst away to investigate the crime, or so he thinks.  As Matthew and his team examine the death there are so many conflicts of interest that he suspects he should remove himself from the case: the fact that the body was found so close to his home, several connections to the Woodyard, the art/day center that Jonathan manages, and the appearance of members of the Brethren.

My Impressions: The day they found the body on the shore, Matthew Venn was already haunted by thoughts of death and dying.

What a first sentence!  This is a very dark and atmospheric new mystery from popular Ann Cleeves, whose other books I have enjoyed.  Matthew Venn is one of the most serious protagonists I can remember reading about and he struggles with a feeling of unworthiness although he is handsome, accomplished, and has a job at which he is skilled.  The story is set in a town in North Devon, near two rivers, the Taw and the Torridge that run into the Atlantic Ocean.  Matthew and Jonathan live in a house on the estuary they got at a bargain price because it might be obliterated in a flood.   The isolation suits Matthew but Jonathan is gregarious and popular; in fact, Matthew is constantly amazed someone so confident would be attracted to him.  This insecurity threatens to derail Matthew from the hunt for the killer but ultimately he triumphs.

In this book, even more than her others, I am impressed by the detailed depiction of minor characters, particularly Lucy and her father Maurice, and Jen Rafferty, the appealing sergeant who works for Matthew.  I had been angry with Cleeves for a plot development in her Shetland Island series but I suppose I am over it by now.  In fact, she was in Greater Boston recently promoting this book and I was disappointed not to be able to attend.

Off the Blog: Enjoying Thanksgiving leftovers in Rye, NY and working on my Nancy Drew paper.

Source:  Thanks to NetGalley for this read.  Recommended!

Wednesday, November 20, 2019

Back to Frederica by Georgette Heyer, Chapters 18-21

For those who wondered what had happened to the discussion of Frederica, I thought I should finish posting:
Image borrowed from https://tinyurl.com/yj6en84b
Chapter 18

After seeing Felix successfully wheedle Alverstoke and hearing that Jessamy is exercising his precious horses, Lady Elizabeth is dying of curiosity and rushes to see her elder sister, Lady Jevington, for her opinion of the Merrivilles.   Eliza reveals that Lady Jersey wrote to her, predicting Alverstoke would marry Charis and that Alverstoke painted her in the most glowing terms.  Lady Jevington says Alverstoke was hoaxing her: “But unless I am much mistaken it is the elder and not the younger sister for whom he has conceived a decided tendre.” 

More astute than Alverstoke realizes, Lady Jevington thinks he does not know his own mind but is determined to protect Frederica from gossip about his intentions.  Surprisingly, she is pro-Frederica and says idleness has been Alverstoke’s ruin so being the guardian of two boys will keep him busy (it is actually quite impressive how well Lady J has observed and analyzed her brother’s behavior).  Lady Elizabeth likes Frederica when she meets her at the Seftons’ party and thinks that she would be considered a very pretty girl were her looks not dimmed by Charis’ proximity.  “She possessed, moreover, the indefinable gift of charm which, unlike Charis’ fragile beauty, would be with her to the end.”  Lady Elizabeth says she’d like to call to meet Frederica’s aunt but Frederica reveals that Miss Winsham’s sister is about to suffer a bereavement so Miss Winsham has been spending all her time at the afflicted household.   Frederica is worried if her uncle-in-law dies they will need to go into mourning and miss out on the last weeks of the season.

Mr. Navenby has asked permission to make Charis an offer but she only cares about Endymion and is now convinced Frederica wants to separate them.  Endymion says if necessary he can sell out of the army so that Alverstoke can’t use his influence to have him sent overseas or on a secret mission (he and Charis don’t realize he does not possess the intellect for espionage).

Chapter 19

Felix arrives at Alver House early the day of the ascension and chatters away to the Marquis and Lady Elizabeth regarding everything they wanted to know about balloons but were afraid to ask.  They park the phaeton near Lord Buxted’s carriage so Lady Elizabeth can converse with Frederica.   Buxted has brushed up with the encyclopedia to playfully provide aeronautics information to Jessamy (who doesn’t care) and Felix (who has already headed off to bother the balloon technicians).   Despite Buxted, they are enjoying the afternoon until the balloon rises into the air with Felix dangling by a rope.   Charis faints and everyone watching freaks out but Felix is hauled into the basket safely.   Frederica does not overreact but says Felix is susceptible to bronchitis and may react badly to the cold.  Jessamy begs the Marquis to lend him the phaeton so he can chase the balloon, and when Frederica also asks him, Alverstoke and Jessamy set off together.

Chapter 20

Alverstoke and Jessamy (and Curry, Alverstoke’s groom) drive off in the direction of the balloon, and Alverstoke tries to calm down Jessamy who is blaming himself.   After driving for some time, they see the balloon descend and when they catch up with it, they learn when the balloon came down it got stuck in a tree.  Spectators tell them the boy (Felix) climbed out of the basket all right but then fell to the ground and was “taken up for dead” and brought to nearby Monk’s Farm.  Jessamy is freaked out again but manages to control himself until they reach the farm.
Chapter 21

The Judbrooks, a kindly farmer and his cranky sister, have taken in Felix and the other injured balloonists, and gruff but competent Dr. Elcot is already there.  He reports that Felix suffered a severe concussion, sprained wrist, broken ribs, and various bruises, and scolds Alverstoke for being “a mighty careless guardian.”   The aeronaut relates that Felix was helping them with the balloon and said he wished he could ascend with them.  They said his parents wouldn’t like it.  But when he clambered into the balloon basket with them, the first thing he said was that he didn’t have parents so they wouldn’t get in trouble!   However, it was cold in the air so Felix probably didn’t realize how numb his hands were: when the balloon got caught in a tree and the occupants had to climb down, he couldn’t hold onto the branch and fell.

Alverstoke gets a good impression of the plainspoken country doctor, who tells him it will take a day or so to determine how serious Felix’s condition is (Alverstoke explains the boy has a history of bronchitis).  Then Alverstoke tells his groom Curry to drive Jessamy back to London, update Frederica on what has happened, and explain that Curry will pick her up the next morning in the Marquis’ traveling carriage to bring her to Felix.   Alverstoke also writes a note to Charles to update him and request some cash (as he is giving all of his to Curry for the travel back to London). Alverstoke is angered by the whole situation until he sees poor Felix lying in a laudanum-induced coma and then he experiences not only pity but also a sense of responsibility.   He realizes he has to take care of Felix until Frederica arrives and also needs to reassure Jessamy who is unwilling to leave.  He flatters Jessamy a little: “You mustn’t think I don’t value Harry, but I can’t but feel that if I stood in Frederica’s shoes I should look to you for support rather than to him.”     After Jessamy and Curry leave, Alverstoke settles down in an armchair next to Felix, expecting a night of tedium, and the chapter ends as he begins to contemplate finding a political patron for Charles Trevor.
Lady Jevington understands her brother better than he realized (we eldest sisters spend a lot of time observing and know our siblings’ flaws quite well) and I suppose we should all be grateful she didn’t intervene and spoil this romance.   Is she right that marriage to Frederica will end his boredom?   Heyer is less optimistic (or is she?) that marriage will reform Damerel.

Heyer describes the balloon ascension so well – including its ignominious descent.    Several years before I read Heyer, I fell in love with the Flambards series by K.M. Peyton, in which one of the characters is an early aviator.  The aeronauts here escape lightly but that was not always the case.  Doesn’t it make you wonder how those early pioneers of the air had the courage to try to fly?

Alverstoke really comes into his own in the chapters at the Judbrooks.   He carries it off with his usual calm but in Chapter 21 he admits to feeling unfit for the responsibility.  It is the trust he sees in Jessamy’s eyes (and knowing unconscious Felix *has* to trust him) that helps Alverstoke cope with a novel and difficult situation.

How does changing horses really work?  You wouldn’t want to leave your own valuable horses in a strange stable without your groom, would you?  And if you are driving job horses and are merely changing one set for another, isn’t there some ultimate owner who wants his horses back too?  It’s not like a national rental car company where the “one-way-dropoffs” make their way back eventually, is it? 

For the previous discussions of Frederica, click here.

Saturday, November 16, 2019

Five Things

I was in Denver this week for work and had a lovely dinner with six other Betsy-Tacy fans.  One told me she had just finished reading Meet the Malones and she wrote about it here.  Don’t you love a convert?
Somehow I found myself vacuuming under and behind my bed recently!   Don’t worry, it probably won’t happen again due to the fact I found ONE jade earring bought in Canada at a friend’s wedding.   I am afraid the other one was vacuumed.   Is it worth going through the vacuum bag to check?  Even if I find it, would it be too gross to ever wear again?

Monday, November 11, 2019

A Killer in King's Cove by Iona Whishaw

Title: A Killer in King’s Cove: A Lane Winslow Mystery
AuthorIona Whishaw
Publication: Touchwood Editions, paperback, 2016
Genre: Historical Mystery/series
Setting: Canada, 1946
Plot: Lane Winslow wanted to get away from London after the horrors of the war but no one was expecting her to take her modest inheritance and buy a home in western Canada.  In King’s Cove, a small town in British Columbia, Lane is welcomed by her new neighbors. 

Friday, November 8, 2019

What is a Lib Guide?

Curious about the History of Children's Literature class I have been taking this fall? 

Last week's assignment was to create a LibGuide, which is basically a subject guide that pulls together all types of information about a particular subject or course of study.  I decided to do mine on children's fantasy, so I researched and included nonfiction reference books and encyclopedias, articles, websites, and some of my favorite books in the genre. I suppose it is really just a bibliography with images. I had fun finding all the covers, including the one below from an edition I own:

It will be interesting to see what my professor thinks of my choices!  For those interested, the text we are using is Children's Literature by Seth Lerer.

Here is the link: Fantasy Lib Guide

Sunday, November 3, 2019

Six Degrees of Separation: From Alice to The Loveliest Chocolate Shop in Paris

Six Degrees of Separation is a monthly link-up hosted by Kate at Books Are My Favourite and Best. Each month a book is chosen as a starting point and linked to six other books to form a chain. A book doesn’t need to be connected to all the other books on the list, only to the one next to it in the chain.

This month the book is Alice in Wonderland.  I have very pleasant memories, not only of reading it but my grandmother gave me LP versions of Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass which I listened to often as a child on my own little record player.  At one point, I could quote long passages.  Prior to this gift, I will admit I'd thought the book was called Allison Wonderland. 
Jeremy Irons, Anthony Andrews, and Aloysius
(copyright Granada Television)
Alice made me think of my first book which begins in Oxford: Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh. When I visited Oxford, reminders of both books were everywhere!  Brideshead is one of the few books of which I consider the miniseries as good or better.  It really captivated viewers when it first came out, including me.  Oh, Anthony Andrews, I could watch you in anything!   In fact, I loved you in a movie of my second book:
The Scarlet Pimpernel by Baroness Emma Orczy, set during the French Revolution, about an Englishman who plays the fop but is really a spy:

We seek him here, we seek him there,
Those Frenchies seek him everywhere.
Is he in heaven? — Is he in hell?
That damned, elusive Pimpernel

My third book is by Georgette Heyer, who was inspired by Orczy and Rafael Sabatini to try her hand at a romantic adventure story.   I have a couple favorites but I am thinking about Devil’s Cub, in which Mary Challoner pulls a gun on the young nobleman trying to seduce her as they travel to France.
Intrepid heroines are always my favorite!   My fourth book is one I was thinking about earlier tonight, Nobody’s Girl by Hector Henry Malot, translated from French and available through Project Gutenberg.  Perrine’s dying mother makes her promise to find the grandfather who disowned his son for marrying beneath him: “Make him love you without revealing your identity!”   An elementary school friend lent me this book when I was about 10 and I was happy to find a copy with the same pink cover not long ago.
My fifth book is also set in France.  (Hmm, there are bits of Brideshead set in Paris so I guess there is a French theme for my chain that I hadn’t planned but will now maintain.)  I am a big Daphne du Maurier fan and once persuaded my book group to read The Scapegoat, an improbable tale of impersonation.   Not all my friends like historical fiction as much as I do but this fascinated everyone.
Finally, for my sixth book, I will end with a book I just finished, The Loveliest Chocolate Shop in Paris by Jenny Colgan, who writes light-hearted women’s fiction but often surprises the reader with serious themes.  Here, an unlikely friendship between Anna and her old French teacher results in Anna going to Paris to work for a famous chocolatier.  This will help Anna recover from an accident and causes Claire to remember her magical time in Paris as an au pair when she was young and in love.
See you next month for Sanditon, soon to be on Masterpiece!

Thursday, October 31, 2019

Cart and Cwidder (Dalemark Quartet, Book 1) by Diana Wynne Jones

Title: Cart and Cwidder, Dalemark Quartet, Book 1
Author: Diana Wynne Jones
Publication: Greenwillow, hardcover, 1975
Genre: Children’s Fantasy
Plot: Clennen, his wife Lenina, and their three children are traveling musicians, and among the few who move between the North and South regions of Dalemark. His parents deliver messages and gossipy news as they travel and sometimes take passengers with them. There are political overtones: the South is more restrictive and “[y]ou dared not put a good, or a word, out of place for fear of being clapped in jail.” Red-headed Moril may be a dreamer but he knows better than to sing seditious songs on his cwidder (a sort of lute) in the wrong part of Dalemark. When Clennen tells the family they are bringing Kialan, a youth about Moril’s age, with them to the North, his children resent the arrogant boy, who sneers at them and brings violence into their lives. When tragedy strikes, it is up to the overlooked Moril, as well as his older brother Dagner, and his feisty sister Brid to stand up for themselves, which also means accepting annoying Kialan and work together to survive.

My Impressions: The first DWJ I brought home from the library (probably in the early 80s) was The Ogre Downstairs, and everyone in the family enjoyed it before it went back to the library. I continued to read her books whenever I had the chance. Much later, when I worked at Avon/Morrow, I ordered myself a copy of every backlist title. Turns out I own a nice first edition American copy of Cart and Cwidder that I had never had time to read. Inspired by Lory from The Emerald City Book Review, I took it with me to the gym the other night and got yelled at by some guy when I was distracted reading between sets and didn’t lift weights fast enough for him. “It’s not a library!” he scolded me. Oh, please!
As with many of DWJ’s books, the main character is thoughtful and quirky, unassuming but with the capacity to rise to the occasion when necessary. Music has dominated the family’s life and it is Moril’s inspired playing of his father’s cwidder that saves the day. Jones’ skill is her ability to mingle humor and tragedy, fantasy and realism effortlessly, without losing her plot (I did think she was hard on the mother in this story). There are also plenty of villains and an overall sense of foreboding that made up for the lack of magic, other than the cwidder.  While not as memorable or multidimensional as the Charmed Life series, I look forward to reading more about Dalemark.

There's going to be a Cart and Cwidder discussion over at Calmgrove where there are lots of DWJ fans later this week.

Off the Blog: Nationals win the World Series!  

Source: Personal copy

Sunday, October 27, 2019

Avalon by Anya Seton

Title: Avalon
Author: Anya Seton
Publication: Houghton Mifflin, hardcover, 1965
Genre: Historical Fiction
Avalon is the eighth of twelve books that are part of my 2019 TBR Challenge, inspired by Adam at Roof Beam Reader, to prioritize some of my unread piles. It is one of Seton’s lesser-known titles and I have owned it for years without getting around to reading it.

Plot: When Rumon, a young man of noble birth, descended from Charlemagne, leaves his home in Provence to seek the source of his visions, his goal is Avalon, the legendary island featured in Arthurian legend. Instead, he is shipwrecked in Cornwall, where he meets a girl called Merewyn, whose father was killed by Vikings before she was born. Promising her dying mother he will deliver Merewyn to an aunt, an abbess at a convent, they set off to the court of King Edgar. The politics of court and of the church, anchored by Dunstan, the Archbishop of Canterbury, provide the counterpoint to the odd friendship that connects Rumon and Merewyn. Both young people are dazzled by Edgar’s queen, Alfrida, which prevents Rumon from recognizing Merewyn’s devotion as she becomes a young woman capable of great love. Because he alone knows the secret of her birth, he considers her unworthy. However, once Rumon realizes that he cares for her, he pursues Merewyn, making a perilous journey across the Atlantic to Iceland, believing he needs to rescue her.

My Impressions: This is another compelling historical novel by the talented Anya Seton and, as with Dragonwyck and My Theodosia, it provides a vivid picture of a little known period, including some real characters, such as St. Dunstan, Leif Erikson, and Ethelred the Unready.  Seton has an uncanny
Merewyn would likely freeze in this outfit
ability to bring history to life, although there are fewer appealing characters and what seems like more violence than in Katherine, one of my (and many others') all-time favorites. Still, it is a great read for historical fiction fans and I could not put it down. As usual, Seton’s sweeping narrative carries the reader along, even when the main protagonist is considered a wimp by reader and Vikings alike:
“And I think that Rumon will always be wanting what he cannot find, and that if he finds what he thought he wanted he will be disappointed. As he is now.” She tried to smile but tears came into her eyes...
Does a real hero always know what he wants? Merewyn’s observation is accompanied by the Vikings’ contempt for someone who won’t fight and who “sounded abject” when he spoke to a mere woman. Rumon is a "Searcher" of visions but is not capable of seeing beyond his own nose.   Still, I give Rumon credit for a three-year quest to find Merewyn, although his overweening pride prevented him from appreciating her when she was close at hand.

Off the Blog: This review is a break from a weekend creating what my History of Children’s Literature professor calls a LibGuide. I chose children’s fantasy literature as my topic and will add a link once complete.

Source: Personal copy