Posts Tagged With: America

A Small Part of History by Peggy Elliott

a small part of history

Synopsis from Amazon:

Remarkable. Inspiring. Heartbreaking.

In the summer of 1845 Rebecca Springer and her family join the Oregon wagon train in search of land thousands of miles away. It’s a hard and dangerous journey through blizzards and searing heat, over prairies, desert plains and mountains and, at times, it seems as if it will never end. But an unbreakable bond develops amongst the travelling women as they are tested, physically and emotionally, and their shared experiences of new life and tragic death will bring them closer than blood ever could.

How the west was won and the terrible price that was paid.

A Small Part of History is an epic, heartfelt story of courage in the face of appalling adversity, and a haunting portrayal of how America was forged. Above all, it is a story of people and how the ties that bind us most strongly are those of friendship, of family and of love.

The Springer’s are joining a train to Oregon. They are hoping a trip West will change their fortune. Yet it will not be an easy trip. When they leave tensions are high between the family. Rebecca, the step-mother is at her wit’s end with Sarah, her 15 year old step-daughter, and Matthew is newly married, and his wife does not want to travel. Early on the family splits with Matthew going home. But this is not the first split the family will suffer. As they travel friends and family suffer from the heat, the cold, lack of food, pregnancy and many other trials. They won’t all make it to Oregon City, but those on the journey form unbreakable bonds and learn how to survive and love each other.

I enjoyed this book. I have seen reviews where people have been unhappy that Elliott mixes up fact and fiction, but I read this as purely a fiction book, and found it highly readable. I loved the characters and how they recorded diary entries so we got to know them better. I enjoyed reading about how friendships were formed, and what it took to make those bonds.

This book was full of adventure. There were fights with Indians, death, a desert to cross, family feuds – all sorts. At all points of the story there was something going on; this was a not a boring book. This was a good historical novel. It may not have been specific and the facts correct, but for a generalised idea of what this era was like for the women crossing America this is a good book.

This is a gripping book, well worth reading. In fact, I have already lent out my copy I enjoyed it that much.

8/10

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The Reluctant Fundamentalist by Mohsin Hamid

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The Reluctant Fundamentalist by Mohsin Hamid

The ‘blurb’

’Excuse me, sir, but may I be of assistance?
Ah, I see I have alarmed you.
Do not be frightened by my beard
I am a lover of America…”

So speaks the mysterious stranger at a Lahore café as dusk settles. Invited to join him for tea, you learn his name and what led this speaker of immaculate English to seek you out. For he is more worldly than you might expect; better travelled and better educated. He knows the West better than you do. And as he tells you his story, of how he embraced the Western dream – and a Western woman – and how both betrayed him, so the night darkens. Then the true reason for your meeting becomes abundantly clear…

The events of this novella take place during a single evening as Changez, the protagonist, starts chatting to a nervous, unnamed, American in a café in a bustling Lahore market. Over the course of the evening, Changez recounts his experiences of America where he studied at an Ivy League university before getting a job with a prestigious business evaluation firm and where he fell in love with Erica.

Life is going very well for Changez until 9/11, where suddenly he’s viewed with suspicion and he, for his part, has a change of heart towards America. He becomes dissatisfied with his life and his thoughts turn to Pakistan, which is affected by the American invasion of Afghanistan and also feelings of unrest in neighbouring India, which are brought to the fore again by what he sees as American interference.

This is a very though-provoking, tense novel which shows stereotypes in all the countries mentioned. The writing style is unusual, it being delivered by monologue. It is a book which divides opinion and leaves some dissatisfied, but I thought it was great and it will stay with me for some time.

If you like your novels to have all the loose ends tied up neatly then this book probably isn’t for you as the ending leaves the reader to draw their own conclusions. It will stay with me for some time.

On a purely aesthetic note, I love the cover, both in look and feel!

Reviewed by Janet

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The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne

Synopsis:

Set in the harsh Puritan community of seventeenth-century Boston, this tale of an adulterous entanglement that results in an illegitimate birth reveals Nathaniel Hawthorne’s concerns with the tension between the public and the private selves. Publicly disgraced and ostracized, Hester Prynne draws on her inner strength and certainty of spirit to emerge as the first true heroine of American fiction. Arthur Dimmesdale stands as a classic study of a seld divided; trapped by the rules of society, he suppresses his passion and disavows his lover, Hester, and their daughter, Pearl. As Nina Baym writes in her Introduction, The Scarlet Letter was not written as realistic, historical fiction, but as a romance; a creation of the imagination that discloses the truth of the human heart.

Well, if truth be told, this book did not hold my attention. I felt it dragged on and I found myself not concentrating throughout the book.

The story follows Hester, who commits adultery and therefore has to wear a scarlet letter ‘A’ pinned to her outfit. This makes her a social outcast. The product of the affair was Pearl, who made the story for me. She brought a smile to my face with her little mischievous ways. The rest of the characters I was a bit indifferent too – except Roger, Hester’s husband, who creeped me out. There was something about him I just didn’t like. I did feel a bit sorry for Arthur, as he seemed to spend the rest of his life paying for his affair, but then actions reap consequences.

I thought it was interesting how they humilitated Hester, with the letter, but how she took it and understood her crime. She seems humble enough to continue wearing it. I was bemused that Pearl only accepts her mother when she is wearing the letter – her crime has become her identity – even to her own child. I liked how it linked back to England and had a dash of history lashed through the book. I was surprised by how much religion was in the book, virtually every chapter mentioned God or the Bible. I guess, however that this was a book set in Puritan times so maybe that should have been expected, and in the eyes of the Church and centuries gone by, adultery is a big sin.

Overall, I was not keen on the book. My interest was not held, however it wasn’t so bad I didn’t finish it. There were elements that made me keep reading, such as Pearl’s character, but they were few and far between.

5/10

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Tracks by Mike Gordon

This is Mike Gordon’s first novel, yet to be released, and I must say, well worth reading. Here is the synopsis for Tracks taken from the back cover:

The future of the surveillance society…In Boston, Global HealthCare Corporation is hoping to recover its fortunes with a new micro-chip technology which can eradicate disease – until Peter Miller, the brilliant but troubled architect of the program, quits his job and goes to work at a psychiatric hospital in London, helping develop a system to track dangerous patients. When a deadly threat to the US emerges, a covert Federal agency becomes involved, and Miller is caught in a web of lies, love, insanity and murder – and he find he’s opened the door to a frightening future.

This is not my usual type of book, but I really enjoyed Tracks. It was gripping, fast-paced and exciting. Issues of mental health, American security, future technology and religion are all addressed in this book. It is just under 300 pages long, and I read 200 pages in one go. There were no slow or boring parts in this book.

I liked the characters and the human characteristics they revealed and struggled with, such as fear, anger and instability. Gordon writes in a way that is realistic, making it easy to engage with the characters.

The ending was magnificent, I was thoroughly satisfied with the way Gordon brought it all together and was surprised at all the way it all tied together and the links between people that I did not see coming at all.

The only thing I did not like was the idea of the anti-christ and the 666 beast. I did not see the point of this strand of the story. I did not feel this was important in the story.

A really good first novel.

9/10

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