Tag Archives: 1800’s

Book Review: The Dream Lover by Elizabeth Berg


The Dream Lover
By Elizabeth Berg
Releases 4/14/15
Downloaded free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review

Rating: 2 bones

I thought I would change things up and go back to a good old historical fiction, a break from mysteries, my genre of choice this year.  I knew I was in for a slower pace, but this was really slow at times.  We were switching back and forth from Aurore’s childhood to her present day life (in her 30’s and on) as writer George Sand.  While interesting, I felt myself longing for a plot line. This read more like a biography from the subject’s point of view with some emotions thrown in (which may have been the intent as I’m not claiming to be mislead.)  I could easily put the book down at night (a big indicator that I wasn’t invested in what was going to happen next) and it took me way too long to finish!

Die_junge_George_Sand

I’m a fighter, so I slowly fought my way through this book, but it really wasn’t my cup of tea.  Again, Aurore/George led a very interesting life, but I never really liked her.  And call me ignorant if you will, but I read historical fiction to make myself smarter, so I was surprised to learn that Amantine-Lucile-Aurore Dupin, more commonly known as George Sand, was a real person!  And in my quick Wikipedia research confirmed the other characters in the book and many events in her life were indeed true.  And at the end, the author did have an “Afterward” (which I always very much appreciate!)

But back to George.  I started off very annoyed with her choices as a mother of 2 young kids.  Through flashbacks to her childhood, her behavior mimics that of her mother, but just because that was how you are raised, does not mean that is what you should do!  And then I felt like she just worked her way through lovers, fitting her kids in as she could, writing books, dressing as a man, creating all sorts of rumors and buzz, and overall led a very selfish life.  There was just nothing to latch onto, nothing to hold my interest, nothing to look forward to.

If I were better versed in George Sand or even in 1800’s European arts around which this took place, I could see liking this book much better, but it just didn’t hold my interest.  I did recognize some of the famous names, like composer Chopin, but many were lost on me.  I’ve heard wonderful things about Elizabeth Berg, so I definitely wouldn’t let this one keep me from picking up one or two of her MANY others, as the writing was beautiful.  For me, my rating is based on my personal enjoyment of the novel.

I’d love to hear your thoughts, but this one just fell flat for me.  I greatly appreciate the opportunity to read and review from NetGalley and Random House Publishing Group.

Book Description:

New York Times bestselling author Elizabeth Berg has written a lush historical novel based on the sensuous Parisian life of the nineteenth-century writer George Sand—which is perfect for readers of Nancy Horan and Elizabeth Gilbert.
 
At the beginning of this powerful novel, we meet Aurore Dupin as she is leaving her estranged husband, a loveless marriage, and her family’s estate in the French countryside to start a new life in Paris. There, she gives herself a new name—George Sand—and pursues her dream of becoming a writer, embracing an unconventional and even scandalous lifestyle.
 
Paris in the nineteenth century comes vividly alive, illuminated by the story of the loves, passions, and fierce struggles of a woman who defied the confines of society. Sand’s many lovers and friends include Frédéric Chopin, Gustave Flaubert, Franz Liszt, Eugène Delacroix, Victor Hugo, Marie Dorval, and Alfred de Musset. As Sand welcomes fame and friendship, she fights to overcome heartbreak and prejudice, failure and loss. Though considered the most gifted genius of her time, she works to reconcile the pain of her childhood, of disturbing relationships with her mother and daughter, and of her intimacies with women and men. Will the life she longs for always be just out of reach—a dream?
 
Brilliantly written in luminous prose, and with remarkable insights into the heart and mind of a literary force, The Dream Lover tells the unforgettable story of a courageous, irresistible woman.

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Book Review: The Ripper’s Wife by Brandy Purdy


The Ripper’s Wife (click book or see below for description)
By Brandy Purdy
Released 10/28/14
Downloaded free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Rating:4 bones

I’d been sitting on this one for a while, the fact that I chose to read over Christmas is a bit puzzling, but none-the-less, I’m glad (in a twisted way) that I finally picked up!  Admittedly, I was hoping this story would go differently as it actually started quite how I liked, but it was overall (not surprisingly) a pretty dark, depressing story.

Let me explain.  I’ve heard of Jack the Ripper, murderer of prostitutes in London in the late 1800’s, and curiosity got the better of me to request this book.  But what a wonderful idea to hear it from the viewpoint of his wife!  And I did do some research after I read the book, which I will quickly summarize.

Jack the Ripper to this day is not known.  There are some theories, and James Maybrick, as Jack, is a working theory.  A diary was found of his maybe 20 years back, and is referred to in this book, that held some never publicized details.  His wife, Florence, Florie, is a real person as well, who was in fact convicted of killing her husband, and the main facts in the story are true.  So this book goes back and forth between Florie’s viewpoint, James’ (Jack’s) diary, and between present day (in the storyline) and how they courted, married, and lived (the time of the murders.)  It was quite confusing to keep track of, especially since there were no paragraphs in my ARC (maybe there are in the hard copy?)

That all being said, I pushed through.  The book started out how I wanted it to.  A beautiful romance between James and Florie.  When I stated earlier that I had hoped things would go differently, I really wanted Jack to be a true alter-ego of James (loving husband at home, murdered at night), when actually James was a pretty rotten person, at least to his wife.  But I enjoyed going back and forth between his home life and his murdering life and living it through Florie’s eyes.  You can’t help but feel for her at times, but no one was truly innocent.  The working theory throughout the book is that Florie, his wife, is the reason Jack the Ripper existed.

The book continues the story long after Jack’s death, which as I mentioned, Florie was convicted of, but the reader gets all the facts and can decide for themselves what they think (I’ll hold it there on this one!)  It bounces back and forth between good times and bad for her and does have a settling ending.  Florie possesses the knowledge of who her husband really was and is very calculating in what she should or shouldn’t do with that knowledge, which is fascinating.

Overall definitely not a happy read, but one that challenged me, kept me interested, and I would highly recommend if this subject peaks your interest at all!

Book Description:

A suspenseful, spellbinding novel of love, jealousy, and murder, The Ripper’s Wife reimagines the most notorious serial killer in history through the eyes of the woman who sealed his fate.

“Love makes sane men mad and can turn a gentle man into a fiend.”

It begins as a fairytale romance–a shipboard meeting in 1880 between vivacious Southern belle Florence Chandler and handsome English cotton broker James Maybrick. Courtship and a lavish wedding soon follow, and the couple settles into an affluent Liverpool suburb.

From the first, their marriage is doomed by lies. Florie, hardly the heiress her scheming mother portrayed, is treated as an outsider by fashionable English society. James’s secrets are infinitely darker–he has a mistress, an arsenic addiction, and a vicious temper. But Florie has no inkling of her husband’s depravity until she discovers his diary–and in it, a litany of bloody deeds. . .

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Book Review: I Always Loved You: A Novel by Robin Oliveira

I Always Loved You: A Novel (click book for description and product page)
By Robin Oliveira
Publication Date: 02/04/14
Provided free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review

My Rating:  4 bones

Finish time: 9 nights.  After my last book (here), I was hoping for a bit of an easier read, but somehow I ended up on this one that took me almost as long.  And centered around art again too.  Hmmm.  Not a bad thing, just kind of funny.  I had a love, hate relationship with this book, but after thinking about it the last day, I did like it, and it’s prompted me to want to learn more on a topic 10 days ago I had no interest in.  So I’d take that as a sign of a good book (see the bottom for some of my “research.”

Having no background in art history, I could recognize some of the names, but I had no idea much more about them.  And this is a random comparison, but what kept popping into my head after I finished on how to describe this book is: Real World: Paris, 19th Century  Or the Impressionists.  And the people all happened to be artists.  Renoir, Manet, Monet, Cassatt, Degas, Morisot, Pissaro (and many more).  Some names familiar to me, others not, but in my brief Wikipedia research, they all were real (and quite the motley crew), as were the other characters in the book.  I guess it was also a “before they were famous” story too.  A bunch of starving artists spending their days dreaming, painting, partying, trying to make a buck, and preparing for the next exhibition.

The main character in the book was Mary Cassatt, an American painter, invited to join the group, and her struggle to fit in among the Paris natives, and make a name for herself in the Paris art scene.  Her relationship throughout the book with Degas is a fun, yet very frustrating one.  Her family comes to join her in Paris too and even in the 1800’s, her struggles with them were so easy to relate to.  I especially enjoyed her relationship with her sister Lydia (again who I confirmed was real – see her portrait by Mary below.)

File:Cassatt Mary At the Theater 1879.jpg

Fun facts were thrown in all over the place, like her friend Abigail Alcott, whose more famous sister is Louisa May Alcott, the author of Little Women.  At some points, I felt a map of Paris would have been helpful as they discussed a lot of landmarks, not a bad thing, and not that I know Paris, but would have been fun to see in the book.  But overall the book was just packed with great stories, complex and compelling relationships, and a ton of history.

As you can guess from the title, a love story too, but what’s fun is that it actually could be a few love stories.  A lot of plot lines are intertwined, and I was confused at some points, but as I said when I started, the more I thought about it, the more I liked it.  Look out for it in just a few weeks.  This is the perfect historical fiction.

And here is the result of some of my research and some notable art mentioned throughout the book.  All taken from Wikipedia.

Degas Little Dancer (a sculpture discussed a lot in the book):

File:Dancer sculpture by Degas at the Met.jpg

Mary Cassatt’s & Edgar Degas’ Self Portraits:

Mary Cassatt - Portrait of the Artist - MMA 1975.319.1.jpg Edgar Degas self portrait 1855.jpeg

Berthe Morisot as painted by Edouard Manet (2 other fascinating characters in the book):

Edouard Manet 040.jpg

And then a lot was centered around the ballet.  Degas painted the dancers, while Cassatt painted the crowd.File:Edgar Germain Hilaire Degas 004.jpg

Cassattopera.jpg

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Book Review: Yellow Crocus: A Novel by Laila Ibrahim

Yellow Crocus: A Novel (Downloaded free on 7/6/13)
By Laila Ibrahim

Finish Time: 3 nights.  Maybe I’m making up for lost time, or maybe this book was just that good that I couldn’t put it down 3 nights in a row.  Both are probably true, but I’m happy to report I really liked this book.

It falls into the historical fiction category taking place on a plantation in Virginia in the mid-1800’s.  The story follows Lisbeth Wainwright and her nurse Mattie, a slave pulled away from her family into the “big house” to care for Lisbeth at the moment of her birth.

The story follows Lisbeth from her birth into adulthood.  You feel as if you are there with her as she deals with family, friends, the help, social standing, her personal conflicts, and ultimately a very difficult decision.  It is during a time where slavery is part of life but some are beginning to question it as the North changes their views and slaves are freed.  I felt transported back to a time that I can’t even imagine, but was painted a very vivid picture of.  I like to think I would be like Lisbeth, as my heart just hurts for Mattie and her family and fellow slaves, and realize what was going on what not right.  But what if it was all you knew and an accepted part of life?  I am glad for those who stood up for others who could not and thankful to live in a FREE country where all men are truly created equal (didn’t we have the same Declaration of Independence even then?)

The story will bring you to tears and melt your heart at the same time.  The ending was perfect and I just felt very satisfied.  Lisbeth and Mattie are both amazing characters, and I was very impressed to read that this book is this author’s first book.  I will keep an eye out for her in the future, but in the meantime – read this book – you won’t be disappointed!

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