I’ve been on a historical fiction kick apparently. But while each of the three books in my review are historical fiction, they are very different in flavor, style and scope.
The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton has been on my reading list FOREVER. The book observes the relationships between well born, well bred, Newland Archer, his fiancé and then wife, May Welland and her cousin the Countess Ellen Olenska, who has returned to Golden age New York society in disgrace desiring to divorce her European husband.
Society during the Golden Age of New York is nothing if not predictable. To be less than respectable and to fit into the preconceived and strict limits is akin to sin. Surprise is not considered pleasant. So the arrival of Countess Olenska at the beginning of Newland and May’s engagement upsets the pretty little apple cart that is typically a society engagement. The Countess is unconventional, independent in thought and actions, and appears not to care how her actions will affect her family.
May is the height of perfection: the perfect daughter, the perfect wife-to-be, the perfect model of a young woman in society. Newland has never considered breaking out of the cast he was born into; he has the prescribed job, the prescribed pre-engagement dalliances, and now the prescribed future wife.
Of course you can see it coming. Newland is fascinated, captivated by May’s cousin the Countess. But what follows is as much a war against convention as a romance. The Age of Innocence paints the landscape of the late 1800s in New York. It is brilliant, romantic and stifling and frustrating. A recommended read.
The Oak Apple by Cynthia Harrod-Eagles is book four of the twenty-nine book series, The Morland Dynasty I have gotten myself hooked on. The history of Great Britain has never been so appealing. Straight forward, fast moving, clear, concise and yet beautiful language that draws the British background for the story of the family Morland.
It is 1630 and civil war breaks out in England. The Morland family continues to struggle between themselves, Catholic vs. Protestantism. But now the Puritans are gaining ground and power and changing the balance and leading people away from tradition of religion and monarchy.
The family is as divided as the country: husbands and wives, fathers and sons, sisters, brothers and cousins all fiercely loyal Englishmen, all fiercely loyal Morlands, trying to hold everything together and tearing the fabric of their lives apart.
I finished The Oak Apple in a weekend and immediately flew through the fifth book The Black Pearl. (We won’t talk about the state of my house due to my reading frenzy.) I am anxious to get to number six, The Long Shadow, but I am restraining myself and reading some non-fiction for a bit and focusing a bit more on the books on my list.
The third historical fiction, Outlander by Diana Gabaldon, was one that was repeatedly recommended to me. I didn’t really get a good idea of the book from these recommendations. All I got was that I. Had. To. Read. It. Well they were right. Now I. Have. To. Read. The. Next. One. Because (be still my heart) it is a series.
The idea of time travel, romance and history coming together to form anything seriously appealing just wasn’t making its way into my thick skull. But to call Outlander a romantic novel would be limiting, although the romance is boiling. To call it a historical novel would not be fair either, although Gabaldon’s command of British history is strong and at times graphic. The time travel element made me think it would be science fiction and that is really not true (although I love sci-fi, this is not it). This is a timeless intense story of faithfulness and love, that explores religion and beliefs and the matter of importance of action.
I am not doing this book justice at all and if you really want to get a sense of the book, go visit Shalee at her Diner and read her review. Let me just say…She is not kidding. Well...there might be a little more to it than that...
Katrina, the writer of Callapidder Days, is hosting The Spring Reading Thing. She is also graciously having book give aways—my word is she giving away the books!! Visit her and all the Spring Reading Thing participants and add to your reading list. I did. And now I have enough on my list to keep me busy for...oh...the next year, or ten.