The Tutor by Andrea Chapin – Book Review

This book is not the first to imagine what William Shakespeare could have been doing during the “lost year” from his real history. However, I found the story of the heroine Katharine de L’Isle the most interesting part of this book. Here, William Shakespeare is portrayed as a tutor to the boys at Lufanwal Hall where Katharine resides and as a charming rapscallion. He begins a relationship with the widowed Katharine, presumably to obtain her help with this writing.  He also has a few other reasons, but in the interest of leaving some things for readers to discover, I will refrain from letting the cat out of the bag.

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Through a series of flattery and hinting at a more physical relationship, William pulls Katharine to him while bathing in her adulation of him. This relationship continues while William is less than honest with her. Unfortunately, Katharine becomes caught up in an imaged affair with the poet/player. While all this is going on, her family falls upon hard times, and various members of her extended family die. This of course has a direct impact upon her life and what will become of her.

Chapin weaves her story using the historical facts of life for women at that time-period. Katharine’s actions could easily have destroyed any semblance of a life if she had been found out. She is such a sympathetic character that you find yourself caught completely up in her story.   William Shakespeare’s rendering in this book is an interesting take on this historical figure.  In all, I recommend this book. I found it entertaining and an interesting read. I also really liked the character of Katharine de L’Isle. Very good!

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Elizabeth is Missing by Emma Healey – Book Review

I have to start this review out by letting you know that I absolutely loved this book. The main character, Maud, is an 80+ year old that has some form of dementia.  She is busy worrying about her friend Elizabeth who she believes is missing. From that mystery, we are led into a deeper and more troubling mystery – the fact that her sister Sukey went missing 70 years ago, and this mystery too, is unsolved.  Maud reminds herself of all the little things by writing notes to herself and leaving them in her pockets.  That way, she never forgets that Elizabeth is missing.  I liked this aspect of her character.  How many of us leave notes for ourselves so that we don’t forget the important things?

I loved the way the story was told from Maud’s confused point-of-view. She mixes up the past with the present and as a result we, the reader, are kept on our toes in order to keep track of which time-frame we’re in. I found Maud’s history to be the most interesting aspect of this book. She lived through World War II and the deprivations it caused to England which lasted well into the 1950’s. Her rendering of this time period was extremely important to the story. Life was much different back then, and her sister was not to be spoken of by the family. This caused mental and emotional scarring, that leads right into Maud’s feelings of the fact that her friend Elizabeth has also gone missing.

The care that Maud’s daughter takes with her is sweet, while also touching on the frustration that Maud’s dementia causes. I will not tell you if these two mysteries ever get solved. I recommend reading this wonderful book to find these answers yourself!

When the Doves Disappeared by Sofi Oksanen – Book Review

This book was both extremely good and equally difficult to read. It dealt with a subject matter I had not really given any previous thought to, but am now glad I read this book. In my history studies and further readings as an adult, I have read many books regarding World War II from the German, French, American, British, Polish, Japanese, Chinese and Russian perspectives, but not a single one from the Estonian perspective. This book deals with a married couple living through both the Soviet Occupation of Estonia from 1940-1941, the German Occupation from 1941-1944, and the Soviet Occupation from 1944-1991. The book actually ends in 1966, but Oksanen makes the point that the Soviet Occupation didn’t end until 1991.

In stark relief, the story of the marriage between Juudit and Edgar is portrayed with all its inadequacies. For most of their married lives, Juudit and Edgar reside separately and the animosity they have for each other jumps off the page. Edgar spends the entire book striving to better himself by working first with the Russians, then reinventing himself with a new name and working with the Germans; then he once again changes his name and history in order to again work with the Russians. His work mostly consists of reporting on others in order to gain favor with his superiors.

I really don’t want to give anything away, but Edgar will do anything and everything to better himself with whatever political power is in charge. That includes throwing his nearest and “dearest” under any bus that comes along.

The difficulties I had in reading this book come from the subject matter; I think you would agree that reading any book about a hostile occupation is not pleasant. However, I highly recommend this book, since it is an interesting, well-researched and exceedingly well-written book about a part of history that I had not given much thought to previously. I’m glad that I read it.

The Magician’s Lie by Greer Macallister – Book Review

I really enjoyed this book. The characters were beautifully drawn and the story was compelling. The main character, Ada Bates, later known as the Amazing Arden, runs away from home to save herself from her abusive cousin Ray. Ray believes that he can break her bones, and then heal her. This is one of the first times magic is alluded to in the book, but certainly not the last.

I won’t tell the details of this book, since I’m hoping that you are intrigued enough to read it yourself, but eventually Ada becomes a magician, changing her name to Arden. She becomes famous for her magical tricks (including one called Woman on Fire) and others begin to copy her act. If you have any form of curiosity regarding magic, you will get some answers in this book. Due to her fame, her cousin Ray finds her, and she must find a way to escape him.

 

The story is told through flashbacks, which of course keep you reading since you want to find out both how the story ends, and the entire story. This is a good read that is both interesting and exciting. I highly recommend it.