Saturday, March 19, 2011

What Are You Reading Between the Covers? - #12

It's late Friday night or early Saturday morning, depending on how you look at it. Another night of insomnia hit me like a ton of books. It's a full moon tomorrow and I never sleep around this time of the month for some reason, but I spent most of the late evening hours curled up under a sheet with my fan running because its already in the 80s here in Dallas in the springtime.

Warning: Plot spoiler below!

I have three books to blog about tonight. The first one is a gothic novel, The Spiritualist, by Megan Chance. This book caught my attention because of the subject matter. I have always been attracted to the Victorian era and particularly the Spiritualist movement, which Houdini spent a lot of time debunking. Spiritualism, for those not familiar with the term, was a movement from the middle 1800s to around the 1920s embracing the séances to contact loved ones on the other side while still maintaining a belief in a sentient God. Most followers were of the upper or middle class, those who could afford to participate in the séances, as is our main character in the novel, Evelyn Atherton.

Evelyn Atherton is part of the upper class society, having married her husband, Peter, a wealthy lawyer with his own firm. After his mother dies, he becomes involved in the Spiritualist movement and introduces Evie to the medium and other characters in the book that help Evie clear her name and escape the gallows when she is accused of her husband's murder. What I found particularly interesting about this book was the focus of the treatment of women in Victorian society and the issue of being gay in Victorian society, which it turns out, Evie's husband, Peter was. How tragic and lonely that must have been to be part of an alternative lifestyle in such rigid times or to be born female in that society. I would recommend this book. There are more than a few twists and turns that will keep you guessing; the characters are colorful and well written.

The second book I'm blogging about tonight is Gabriel Garcia Marquez's Love in the Time of Cholera. I was unsure whether I would like this book. Usually, I can tell by the first couple of pages, but this one I remained neutral on until a few chapters in when I couldn't put it down. It follows the love story of Florentino Ariza and Fermina Daza, which spans several decades before the two lovers actually consummate their relationship and can be together after Fermina Daza becomes a widow. The book is so passionate and
reminds of Il Postino a bit in its level of emotion and also Katherine Vaz's writing, particularly her short story collection Fado and Other Stories, which I recently blogged about. Certainly, more than a few fados or passionate love songs could be written for Marquez's story. While I liked the book, I was disappointed by the ending. I expected more when they finally got together afte the big buildup towards that moment. That is my only complaint. Marquez is a superb writer and I highly recommend his work.

After reading of such passion, I turned to the legend of Robin Hood and Maid Marian, which I finished earlier tonight, Elsa Watson's Maid Marian. This book focused on Marian's story, not Robin Hood's, which was refreshing. Her writing is in the tradition of Marion Zimmer Bradley who wrote The Mists of Avalon series focusing on the women in the King Arthur stories and Rosalind Miles's Isolde (the first book of the Tristan and Isolde trilogy), which is about the Queen of the Western Isles. Watson takes a feminist perspective on Maid Marian, creating a strong, independent, opinionated young woman who is determined to take back her birthright, the lands she inherited at her parents' death, from Lady Pernelle, the noble woman who has weaseled her way into control and murdered one of her sons to keep it. Maid Maria is also very concerned with remaining independent and following her own destiny in the book. There is a love interest with Robin Hood of course, but that is plot is second to Lady Marian's personal journey and her friendship with her childhood nurse, Annie. While this book does not deal much with the historical hardships of the period, it does minorly address the grievously unfair tax system imposed on peasants. This is a good, light read that I recommend.

As always, happy writing and happy reading to all!

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