RSS

Tag Archives: New York

Review – Mrs Lincoln’s Dressmaker – Jennifer Chiaverini

mrs lincolnMrs Lincoln’s Dressmaker
Author: Jennifer Chiaverini
Release Date: January 15, 2013

Review Copy Provided by Dutton Adult via Edelweiss

Description:
In Mrs. Lincoln’s Dressmaker, novelist Jennifer Chiaverini presents a stunning account of the friendship that blossomed between Mary Todd Lincoln and her seamstress, Elizabeth “Lizzie” Keckley, a former slave who gained her professional reputation in Washington, D.C. by outfitting the city’s elite. Keckley made history by sewing for First Lady Mary Todd Lincoln within the White House, a trusted witness to many private moments between the President and his wife, two of the most compelling figures in American history.

In March 1861, Mrs. Lincoln chose Keckley from among a number of applicants to be her personal “modiste,” responsible not only for creating the First Lady’s gowns, but also for dressing Mrs. Lincoln in the beautiful attire Keckley had fashioned. The relationship between the two women quickly evolved, as Keckley was drawn into the intimate life of the Lincoln family, supporting Mary Todd Lincoln in the loss of first her son, and then her husband to the assassination that stunned the nation and the world.

Keckley saved scraps from the dozens of gowns she made for Mrs. Lincoln, eventually piecing together a tribute known as the Mary Todd Lincoln Quilt. She also saved memories, which she fashioned into a book, Behind the Scenes: Thirty Years a Slave and Four Years in the White House. Upon its publication, Keckley’s memoir created a scandal that compelled Mary Todd Lincoln to sever all ties with her, but in the decades since, Keckley’s story has languished in the archives.

Review:
I have previously read/listened to Ms Chiaverini’s work (her Elm Creek Quilters series) and enjoyed it, so when I saw that she had written a new book that was primarily historical fiction, I jumped on the opportunity to read/review it. My favorite part of her other series is how she is able to seamlessly go back in time to describe a key element, so I was curious to see how she could pull off an entire HF book. There have been numerous books written about Mary Todd Lincoln and Elizabeth Keckley, her modiste (although the title is dressmaker, that isn’t necessarily accurate). However, I haven’t read any of them, which I am kind of glad of, because it meant that going into reading this book that my mind was a clean slate.

I found the first part of the book the most interesting about how Elizabeth came to work for Mrs. Lincoln following the election. But not only that, the sense of realism that was portrayed in how Mrs. Lincoln was talked/gossiped about – I made me think about the similarities between her and celebrities today – nice to see that some things haven’t changed. I really enjoyed the book up until the point just after Lincoln was assassinated and what happened to Mrs. Lincoln and her family – but then it just felt like it started going down hill. There were parts that it seemed like the author had just gotten a hold of Elizabeth Keckley’s memoir (which I am planning on reading) and was just regurgitating some of the stuff mentioned in there. It felt much more memoir-ish, than historical fiction -which is a pity. The last 25% of the book or so just dragged – I wasn’t that interested in what was going on which was a disappointment because I had enjoyed the first part of it. The story behind the tell-all memoir was intriguing, and kind of reminds me of how pretty much every celebrity today has had a bio/memoir written about then and how newspapers like the National Enquire go to extreme lengths for these “tell-all” tales – so maybe some historical basis to how these items came to be?

I think that this stage, I probably would have gotten more out of reading the memoir, so I could see what was real and what the author had actually interpretated based on her research. The story behind the quilt was interesting (and I did like that in the authors note, she described how she had come up with the storyline for it that she had). While I enjoyed bits and pieces of the authors writing style, I think I am going to stick to her contemporary fiction with flashbacks – I found it much more enjoyable. I have requested a copy of Elizabeth Keckley’s memoir from the library and am curious to read it. Overall, I’d give Mrs. Lincoln’s Dressmaker 3 stars, but it is on the lower side of the 3.

 
2 Comments

Posted by on January 10, 2013 in Book Review

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Classics Challenge – A Tree Grows in Brooklyn – Betty Smith

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn
Author: Betty Smith
Classics Challenge Sub-topic: Coming of Age

Book Description:
The story of young, sensitive, and idealistic Francie Nolan and her bittersweet formative years in the slums of Williamsburg has enchanted and inspired millions of readers for more than sixty years. By turns overwhelming, sublime, heartbreaking, and uplifting, the daily experiences of the unforgettable Nolans are raw with honesty and tenderly threaded with family connectedness — in a work of literary art that brilliantly captures a unique time and place as well as incredibly rich moments of universal experience.

Review:
I probably never would have put this book on my challenge to read list if it hadn’t shown up as a group read in one of my various goodreads groups. But now that I have read it, I can’t believe that I hadn’t before. And come to think of it, I don’t recall even really hearing about it – although apparently it is still used on school reading lists. (My library has all the reading list books separated from the standard YA, so they are easy to find).

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn is such a simple tale – the story of Francie growing up in Williamsburg, a part of New York (although every time I see that town name, I think of Williamsburg, VA). She goes through the same trials that most kids do – going to school, dealing with boys, first love, but on top of all that, an alcoholic father and being exceptionally poor. I loved seeing her mother (who some reviews describe as being cruel, although I don’t agree) teaching Francie and her brother about the value of money and saving towards a goal (with the tin cup that they nailed in the cupboard at each house they moved to). Or the love of learning that she inspired in them, through Shakespeare and the bible.

Even now, over 60 years since it was originally written, I can see how kids can relate to the going-ons. Not necessarily the time period specific, but the general themes of growing up and finding your place in the world. Being the sucker that I am for happy endings, I wonder what would happen if a sequel was ever written – What did Francie end up doing with her life – Did she finish going to college? Did she get over her first love and subsequent first heartbreak? But at the same time, I don’t want to know because I can imagine various different endings all I want and a sequel would change that.

This is a book that I would recommend to pretty much anyone, but I do think that teenage girls would enjoy it the most because of the themes and the characters.

 
4 Comments

Posted by on November 8, 2012 in Classics Challenge

 

Tags: , , , , , , ,

Review: Portrait in Death


Portrait in Death

Portrait in Death by J.D. Robb 

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Series: In Death (Book 16)

Normally by the time a book series reaches number sixteen, you would expect for the plot to start becoming a bit iffy, and mistakes to possibly occur with the characters and their personalities. Yet, with Portrait in Death, none of these things occurred. In fact, looking back, I think that this is potentially my favorite one of the series so far. I was kept guessing until the very end…in fact, I had wondered about who the person was and then discarded them as a probable…i guess I would be an epic fail in Eve’s place ;)

Not only was the crime interesting, a guy that poses his victims in photographs at their death, but all the continued development of the cast of characters. Anyone who has read the previous books has likely come to love the pairing of Eve and Rourke…I mean, hello its Rourke! But the development of Officer Delia Peabody and Ian McNabb; the reoccurring characters of Feeney and Dr Mira; and now Detective Baxter and Officer Truehart (who is growing on me more and more each day). I also can’t help by love Summerset and all the shit that he continually gives Eve. A relationship that is built on snide remarks, with an undertone of respect (in a round about way).

Once again narrated by the brilliant Susan Erickson, who the remarkable ability to not only distinguish each character’s voice, but also maintain those voices through the series of books. Ms Erickson is one narrator I know who is going to give me a guaranteed great performance whenever I pick up a book done by her.

View all my reviews

 
1 Comment

Posted by on April 20, 2012 in Book Review

 

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

 
Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 418 other followers