Friday, July 23, 2021
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 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."
Friday, July 9, 2021
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 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.
Friday, June 25, 2021
Friday, June 18, 2021
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.
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.
Friday, May 21, 2021
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.