Welcome to my blog where I share my book reviews
and life along the winding road

Friday, July 23, 2021

The Women of Chateau Lafayette by Stephanie Dray


The Women of Chateau Lafayette is three books in one. The Chateau de Chavaniac is the French birthplace of Marquis de Lafayette who helped the American colonies win independence. But it was his wife, Adrienne, who protected the family during the French Revolution. In WWI Beatrice Astor Chanler uses the family fortune to restore the chateau and makes it a sanctuary for sick and orphaned children. One of those children, Marthe, (a fictional character) works to protect Jewish children during WWII at the Chateau where she lived and worked. Each war brought with it atrocities that these women had to deal with, showing courage and fortitude. 

Friday, July 16, 2021

The Midnight Library by Matt Haig

 The Midnight Library by Matt  Haig begins with "Nineteen years before she decided to die, Nora Seed . . ."

How could you not continue reading after that start in a novel? Nora goes through life with one disappointment after another and finally, full of misery and regret, decides she has had enough. But she ends up in between life and death with a choice to sample different outcomes in her life. But in search for a perfect life she finds that some things are solved but other outcomes are unexpected such as the death of friends or family. In some lives she attains fame and fortune, but as in real life, it doesn't come with guaranteed happiness. 

"There are no easier paths . . . most lives contain degrees of good and degrees of bad."

My thoughts:
This was a book club choice and leaves open lots to discuss. I found it made me think about alternatives in my own life, but whichever path taken, I would not want to lose my children or grandchildren so therefore I look at the sign I painted and use as a constant reminder - Live Without Regret.

Hop on over to my A Penny Saved blog for information about painting signs.

Friday, July 9, 2021

Samuel Adams by Ira Stoll

 Samuel Adams by Ira Stoll shows the life of John Adam's cousin in 18th century Boston during the American Revolution. One of the Founding Fathers, he was influential in fighting against the English Parliament that arbitrarily enforced taxes on the American Colonists (Stamp Act) when they had no parliamentary representation to put forth their interests. 

Note: The 1765 Stamp Act was a 13,000 word document that required taxes paid on any printed or legal document. This included magazines, newspapers, and newsletters  - a version is still used in England for certain legal documents. This was followed by the Sugar Act of 1764 which included Madeira, coffee, and foreign indigo.  Not unlike today, taxes were enforced to pay for the frivolous spending of the king/government. Queen Charlotte wore a garment for the King George III coronation valued at $100,000 - a massive fortune at that time. Together with the vast amount of money spent on the French and Indian War the Crown was in need of money.

Samuel Adams married Elizabeth Wells in 1764 after his first wife, Elizabeth Checkley, had died seven years prior, following child birth (only two of their six children lived to adulthood).

He was said to be a man of piety with deep religious conviction and felt that the political and and religious goals of the Revolution were intertwined.  Adams was appointed to a committee of the Boston Town Meeting (The Loyal Nine) to draft instructions for Boston's representatives in the Massachusetts legislature. He realized the importance of trade and the support of commerce without unreasonable impositions. There are mixed views as to whether Samuel Adams was instrumental in hanging an effigy of the local stamp master, Andrew Oliver, or the riots that attacked and looted the houses of both Andrew Oliver and the Lieutenant Governor. He did, however, later approve of them referring to them as "Sons of Liberty."

Friday, July 2, 2021

Northern Spy by Flynn Berry

 Northern Ireland has long been known for conflict between Protestants and Catholics; Colonists/Loyalists (British) and the Irish Republican Army.

Northern Spy by Flynn Berry follows two sisters, one a member of the IRA and another who reluctantly acts as a go-between, passing on important information to the British MI5.

From the cover:
Tessa is at work one day when the news of another IRA raid comes on the air. The IRA may have gone underground in 1998, but they never really went away, and lately, bomb threats and security checkpoints have become features of everyday life. . . 
The police believe Tessa's sister, Marian, has joined the IRA. Though her family is Catholic, they were raised to oppose the violence enacted in the name of Republicanism. 

I wasn't sure of the time period the book covers and was surprised that so much violence and IRA activity was still going on. I remember living in London when IRA bombs were going off in the late 1960s and being very aware of surroundings when travelling by train on the underground or watching out for packages in the road where bombs may have been placed to explode when a car ran over them.

Unfortunately, I see much of the same violence in the U.S. today with protests that destroy, injure and kill. 

Note: In a Flynn Berry conversation she states the book is written in the near future because conflict and IRA recruitment is once again arising during the Brexit tensions. She states that Americans tend to romanticize the IRA and send money to support the violent group with little knowledge of their actions.

Friday, June 25, 2021

A Single Thread by Tracy Chevalier

 A Single Thread by Tracy Chevalier is set in the English city of Winchester. In 1932 after both a brother and her fiance has died during WWI Violet Speedwell is living with her mother in Southampton. Finding a way out of her situation with an overbearing mother and still grieving, she accepts a transfer with the insurance company she works for as a typist and moves to Winchester. A visit to the cathedral brings her in contact with a group of broderers who were making cushions and kneelers. She finds friendships within the group. I liked the story set in an old city with explanations of the work and the workings of the cathedral, but after a while I found myself skipping the numerous explanations of both the embroidery and the bell ringing - it distracted from the path Violet Speedwell was taking.

Friday, June 18, 2021

The Four Winds by Kristin Hannah


The setting for The Four Winds by Kristin Hannah is 1930s Texas when the Great Plains is no longer a land of abundance but a dust bowl replete of top soil and drought conditions make farming close to impossible. The story follows Elsa who comes from a well-to-do banking family but feels rejected. When she meets Rafe Martinelli from a family of Italian immigrants she finally finds a family who accept her. It isn't long before Rafe leaves the dying farm and, Elsa, with a child suffering from respiratory problems decides to try her chances in California where one set of problems is replaced by another. They do not subside and she finds instead she is just one of many escaping from the Plains in search of work.

My thoughts:
I can't imagine a time when both economic depression and the catastrophic drought which caused dust to swirl like tornadoes in the Great Plains made life impossibly difficult. Elsa showed strength in attempting to find a better life for her children but some bad choices brought about a sad ending to the story. I would have liked her to achieve something despite the odds. 

Farming in the Great Plains plowed up natural grasses to be replaced by corn and wheat. When the drought began there were no natural plants to keep the soil anchored and great waves of dust permeated everything. In 1935 - Black Sunday - more than 300,000 tons of Great Plains soil was dispersed which was more than the soil dug to build the Panama Canal. Many people headed toward California to work in the cotton fields but because so many people descended on the state they were met with angry Californians who had been used to Mexican field workers coming for the season and then returning home to Mexico. Now thousands of people had descended on the towns which were ill equipped to provide housing, school and medical help for the outsiders. Unsanitary camps were set up near the Central Valley farms in which disease spread rapidly. Unscrupulous farmers paid fewer and fewer daily wages in the form of chits to be used at the over priced company store and unions were then thought of as saviors of the situation.

Friday, May 21, 2021

How the Penguins Saved Veronica by Hazel Prior


How the Penguins Saved Veronica  by Hazel Prior  follows crochety eighty-five year old Veronica McCreedy to the Antarctic where she becomes enthralled with the penguins. This hadn't been a plan for her latter years, but after finding out about the scientific team studying penguins she thinks this might be a good venture to benefit from her fortune and estate in Scotland. Without any living relatives she anticipates adding them to her will on her return to Scotland. In the meantime she discovers she has a grandson, Patrick, who has been quite happy to live on government benefits and work just one day a week at a bicycle shop. In the process of her adventure Patrick and Veronica find out more about each other and how important family and connections are.