Sue Monk Kidd Inspires Literary Vacation

s The Invention of Wings sparked a multi-generational adventure to Charleston, South Carolina.

After reading The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd I became obsessed with learning as much as I could about the sisters Grimke.  Although the book was historical fiction, Sarah and Angelina Grimke are more than just characters in a book, they were true abolitionists and suffragettes, and not surprising were daughters of true American patriots.  Their father was once jailed in Charleston by the British and the girls eventually had to leave Charleston in fear for their lives, never to return for the sake of their family.   After finishing my research I felt the need to visit Charleston and see some of the places that were so vividly described in the book.  Having also read the books, I invited two of my Aunts and one of my Daughters to go along with me on this pilgrimage.  Before our trip I contacted Carol Ezell-Gilson, part of the Charleston Preservation Society, who, along with a partner, leads the Original Grimke Sisters Tours.  We were not disappointed. Carol led us through Charleston, bringing us to the home that Sarah lived as a young girl, the home they moved to before Angelina was born, by the (most likely) home of Denmark Vecey, a free black carpenter and minister who led the opposition of Slavery in Charleston in 1822 and many other relevant landmarks.  She helped us discern the differences of fact and fiction in the book and helped us understand the city during the early 1800’s in such a special way. a

The book, written in two voices, the first being Sarah Grimke and the second being Hattie (Handful), her slave, gives life and breath to what it might feel like to live in the South during a turbulent time when people were so divided about right and wrong.  Having three generations of women following a path forged by the strength of two sisters was a powerful experience, building a bond I will cherish forever.

 

By Kathy Bennett
Children’s Services Associate

Great Reads Book Club – June’s Book

 

21853621In a video book trailer for The Nightingale, Kristin Hannah called it her personal favorite out of the books she had written. A veteran of romance genre, Hannah captivated her old readers and gained many new fans in the historical fiction genre after The Nightingale’s publication. The novel won many prestigious awards, such as the Goodreads Choice Award in 2015 and Library Journal’s Best Historical Fiction Award, but even more importantly, Kristin Hannah’s take on the Nazi-occupied France enthralled everyone in the Great Reads Book Club.

Hannah mentioned in one of her interviews that the idea for The Nightingale came to her several years ago while she was in a process of doing research for her other book, Winter Garden, which was set in Russia during World War II. While reading women’s war stories and diaries, Hannah came across the true story of a 19-year-old Belgian woman who created an escape route out of Nazi-occupied France. Her name was Andrée De Jongh and her story inspired The Nightingale.

When the Wehrmacht troops entered and occupied France in 1940, they broke the spirit of the French people with scare tactics, malnourishment, and at times, outright savagery. Albeit their cruel actions weakened the French population both physically and mentally, many fought back by joining together in what became known as the French Resistance. Our protagonists, sisters Isabelle and Vianne, fought back against the Nazi occupation in their own ways. The courage and sacrifice these sisters displayed in the novel honors the real French men and women, who experienced tremendous suffering during that time period.

My favorite aspect of The Nightingale was the gradual transformation of Isabelle and Vianne. In the beginning of the novel, we find out that they were driven apart by unhealed childhood wounds and divergent personalities. Isabelle is rebellious and not afraid to express her true feelings, even in the face of certain harm and danger. Vianne’s main source of anxiety is the safety of her daughter in the face of German occupation and, therefore, she tries to follow the rules. The Great War transforms the sisters and, while driving them apart initially, ultimately brings them closer together. If you enjoy courageous, dynamic, three-dimensional characters and seeing what actions they would take when facing tremendous ordeals, The Nightingale is the book for you. Hannah writes in a compelling and emotionally-moving way and it’s truly hard to put this one down.

Ilya Kabirov

Great Reads Book Club – May’s Book

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The term “Easy Read” is subjective to the individual reader. What one reader might define as an “easy read”, another might mark as a “hard read”. It was agreed by everyone in the Great Reads Book Club that What She Left Behind by Ellen Marie Wiseman was not an easy read. Despite the fact that Wiseman possesses an undisputed talent for narrating a good story, the topic under examination is not an easy one.

Wiseman wanted to tell a story of what happens to different people admitted to mental institutions. She accomplished this through two storylines. The first is of Izzy Stone, who grew up without a mother because she was in prison for shooting Izzy’s father ten years prior. Traveling from one foster home to another, Izzy was forced to become self-reliant from her early years. Now, Izzy is seventeen and her new foster parents have asked for Izzy’s help in cataloguing abandoned belongings in a local, deserted mental asylum. While working, Izzy discovers Clara Cartwright’s personal journal, which gives Izzy a new purpose in life.

The second plot line tells us a story of Clara Cartwright’s appalling experiences in a mental asylum. Clara was 18 in 1929, when her conservative father arranged a marriage for Clara with a man she did not love. Clara rejects the proposal and her furious parent sends her to a public asylum, in order to convince Clara to change her mind. Clara’s experiences in the asylum are truly awful and some readers might find those parts hard to read. One of the biggest points that sparked up an excellent conversation in the book club was doctor’s authority over patient’s body. Is it ok for a doctor to make any sort of changes to his patient’s body just because he is considered to be a professional or can a patient reject doctor’s orders?

What She Left Behind can be considered a historical novel, for a large portion of the story is unveiled in the past through the eyes of Clara Cartwright. However, the novel can appeal to readers of fiction set in present times. There is a plethora of topics in the book, relevant to today’s world and its problems, like abusive relationships, motherly interference in child’s growth, bullying, women’s rights, professional authority, and birth control. I’d recommend this book to anyone who enjoys leisurely-paced, character-driven, thought-provoking literary fiction and schemes of parallel narratives.

Ilya Kabirov

What’s New in Inspirational Historical Fiction

This fall sees some really fantastic titles coming out in inspirational fiction. Here are a few titles I am looking forward to

Secrets She Kept

by Cathy Gohlke

secrets she kept

Hannah Sterling’s estranged mother, Lieselotte, dies leaving a mysterious past. Hannah is shocked to discover a grandfather living in Germany she never knew. Thirty years earlier he was a high-ranking member of the Nazi party, and a proper marriage for his daughter would have helped advance his career. Lieselotte is in love―but her choice is far from an ideal match, as he secretly works against the Nazis. Secrets kept are revealed as both of these women’s lives unfold. Gohlke is a fantastic historical fiction author that is on my “must read” list.

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Luther and Katharina 

by Jody Hedlund

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This is the love story between 16th century, nun Katharina von Bora and Reformation leader Martin Luther.  Katharina longs for love, but is strong-willed. Luther holds fast to his convictions and remains isolated, refusing to risk anyone’s life but his own. They couldn’t be more different. But as the world comes tumbling down around them, these unlikely allies forge an unexpected bond of understanding, support and love. Hedlund’s books are some of the most emotion filled I have ever read.

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The Mistress of Tall Acre 

by Laura Frantz

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The American Revolution is finally over and Sophie Menzies is hoping for better days to come.Her closest neighbor, General Seamus Ogilvy returns home, but the general is now a widower with a small daughter in desperate need of a mother. Nearly destitute, she agrees to marry Seamus and become the mistress of Tall Acre. But  a woman from the his past returns, threatening this new family and her position as mistress of Tall Acre. Frantz really had a talent for this time period!

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The Lost Heiress

by Roseanna White

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Brook Eden though raised in the palace of Monaco,is  British by birth and was brought to the Grimaldis under suspicious circumstances as a babe. Her Justin uncovers the fact that Brook is likely a missing heiress from Yorkshire, so she leaves her adopted home to find her real family. What she finds is a mystery surrounding  her mother’s death. Her father is quick to accept her, the rest of the family and the servants of Whitby Park are not. When her life is threatened, will she meet the same mysterious fate as her mother? White has written a great British historical with a twist of mystery and intrique.

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— Christine

Spotlight On New Inspirational Fiction

fair play                   Fair Play                  

     by Deeanne Gist

Saddled with a man’s name, the captivating Billy Jack Tate makes no apologies for taking on a man’s profession. As a doctor at the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair, she is one step closer to having her very own medical practice—until Texas Ranger, Hunter Scott asks her to give it all up to become his wife. Clash of wills but will love win out? Another fun read from Deeanne Gist!

poltsPlots and Pans

by Kelly Eileen Hake

Tucker Carmichael likes order, especially on a cattle drive.  The Chisholm Trail is dirty, dangerous, and no place for women. After being away at school, Jessalyn Culpepper has come home and is determined to show everyone that a woman can manage everything from cooking to cattle! Tucker is horrified when she wants to join the cattle drive. But when they need a chuck wagon cook, Jessalyn seems the only solution.

The-Midwife-.-.-.-final-coverThe Midwife

by Jolina Petersheim

Rhoda , a Mennonite woman, with a past she wants to hide, is the head midwife at Hopen Haus. Beth Winslow, a surrogate whose  unborn child has some abnormalities, flees to Hopen Haus were Rhoda works. Add to that a pregnant young woman named Amelia who arrives  bearing secrets of her own. As Amelia’s due date draws near, Rhoda must face her past and those she thought she had left behind in order for the healing power of love and forgiveness to set them all free.

bridge-to-havenBridge to Haven

by Francine Rivers

It’s the 1950s and Lena Scott is the hottest rising star  since Marilyn Monroe. Only a few people know her by real name Abra and even fewer know the price she has paid for stardom. Pastor Ezekiel Freeman found her years ago, an abandoned newborn. The scars of that event left her vulnerable to a fast talker who lured her to Hollywood, to a life she is not prepared for. Fame comes at an awful price. She has burned every bridge to get exactly what she thought she wanted. Now, all she wants is a way back home.

pelicanThe Pelican Bride

by Beth White

In 1704  Genevieve Gaillain and her sister board a ship to the Louisiana colony as mail-order brides. Genevieve knows life won’t be easy but when she falls in love with Tristan Lanier, an expatriate cartographer whose  fair treatment of native people has made him  unpopular in the  colony, Genevieve realizes that even in this land of liberty one is not guaranteed peace. And a secret she harbors could mean the undoing of the colony itself.

springOne Perfect Spring

by Irene Hannon

Claire Summers is an independent single mother who is doing her best she can. Keith Watson is a workaholic with no  social life. As the executive assistant to a local philanthropic businessman, he’s used to fielding requests for donations. But when a letter from Claire’s eleven-year-old daughter reaches his desk, everything changes. The girl isn’t asking for money, but for help finding the long-lost son of an elderly neighbor.

—- Christine

 

Historical Fiction Read-a-likes

Do you like to read books by Philippa Gregory and are looking for a new author to read? The Pinnacle Library System owns several books by a variety of authors you might enjoy but not be familiar with. Listed below are a several of the  authors along with some of the titles Fountaindale owns:

The Forbidden Queen

forbidden queen

by Anne O’Brien

The Boleyn Wife

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by Brandy Purdy

Daughter of York

easter smith

by Anne Easter Smith

Roses Have Thorns

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by Sandra Byrd

The Forgotten Queen

bogdan

by DL Bogdan

I, Jane: In the Court of Henry VIII

jane

by Diane Haeger

Secrets of the Tudor Court: At the Kings Pleasure

kate

by Kate Emerson

The Memoirs of Mary Queen of Scots

mary quee

by Carolly Erickson

The Confessions of Catherine de Medici

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by CW Gortner

— Christine

Some Historical Fiction Favorites

I have always been a big reader of historical fiction. Recently I read some outstanding books that I just couldn’t put down. Enjoy!

19th wifeThe 19th Wife by David Ebershoff

This book follows two story lines. The first, set in the present, follows a woman living in a polygamist cult, who is accused of shooting her husband. She is the first 19th wife we meet. Her son who was kicked out of the cult, is called back to try to help her prove her innocence. The second story is set in the 1800s as we follow the writings of Eliza Ann Young, the 19th (possibly) wife of Brigham Young and her family as they struggle with the early days for the LDS church and most specific, polygamy. I couldn’t put this book down! Both stories were intriguing and I learned so much about the early Mormon church, controversies and all. And of course, we all know the stories concerning the FLDS and Warren Jeffs.

trueTrue Sisters by Sandra Dallas

After reading The 19th Wife, I wanted to continue along with learning more about the early Mormon church, but with a less controversial spin. True Sisters follows a group of recent converts from England and Scotland who are part of the hand cart pioneers who walk across the US to the promised land of Utah, pulling all their possessions by hand in hand carts. I remember reading about this several times and seeing depictions of it when I visited SLC when I was younger. Each family struggles with hunger, weather and each other. As they try to survive the brutal conditions, some come out of it with their faith intact, others do not. I never realized just what a perilous journey they embarked on, until I read this.

dressmakerThe Dressmaker by Kate Alcott

Everyone knows the story of the Titanic thanks to the movie, this book explores not just the sinking but the trials that followed afterwards as everyone was blaming each other for the tragedy. We follow Tess, an aspiring seamstress, who thinks she has landed the job of a lifetime being a lady’s maid to Lady Duff-Gorden, a famous (and real life!) dressmaker, as they embark to the US aboard the Titanic. The story of the sinking being a type of “end of an era” symbol is carried into Lady Duff-Gordon’s dress creations, once the rage, now seeming outdated and Tess the new kid with the new, fresh ideas. The confusion and terror of the sinking and also the trials, with their real life characters and drama, were also fascinating.

-Christine