This book is the result of a collaboration by seven young adult authors, all women; their work provides a very readable history of Tudor England from the perspectives of Henry VIII’s six wives. Katherine of Aragon, Anne Boleyn, Jane Seymour, Anne of Cleves, Catherine Howard, and Katherine Parr all come to life on the pages of their respective chapters. Each story is interesting in its own right; together, their individual voices form a simple but cohesive account of the relationships at the foundation of King Henry’s 38-year reign.
I love historical fiction because you can pick up so many interesting facts as you immerse yourself in the story. Did you know that Jane Seymour was idolized by Henry after producing him a male heir? She died after giving birth to his son, and Henry had her heart buried in the Chapel at Hampton Court. Anne of Cleves never consummated her marriage with the king, but lived on a generous settlement long after the annulment of her marriage, and was referred to as Henry’s ‘beloved sister.’ I also did not know that poor Catherine Howard, beheaded at just 18 years old by the jealous 50-year old Henry, was a cousin of Anne Boleyn. And I learned that Katherine Parr, the well-educated wife who survived him, served as regent, ruling all of England for a summer while Henry went to battle in France. She also worked to bring together and educate all three of Henry’s children.
As always, a book like this always makes me wonder how much fact is integrated in the fiction. Judging from the information provided at the end of book, it appears that the stories of each queen are based on extensive research. The brief “Tudor Timeline” and a “Who’s Who in the Court” both are both helpful references.
If you love stories that make history come alive, this is a great read.
Review by Roberta Jordan, Outreach and Instruction Librarian
To request a copy, click here.
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Interested in trying it? Contact Roberta Jordan by email at email@example.com.
‘Ragtime’ Jack has been performing for more than 30 years. He is a master of traditional country blues and ragtime & stride piano, and a powerful singer/songwriter, as well as songs from the “Great American songbook.” He also accompanies himself on the guitar and fiddle. Jack was inducted into the Old-Time Music Association Hall of Fame in 2014. Jack’s performances always include a lot of uplifting wit, historical anecdotes and connections with local lore, wherever he performs. His background in journalism amplifies a lifelong quest for the cultural framework of his music and the places he performs.
I just put a hold on this wonderful Canadian author’s newest book, Women Talking, after reading about it in The New Yorker. This, her eighth novel, was released in Canada last year and is due out in the U.S. on April 2. As in many of her books, she draws on her Mennonite heritage as a way to express outrage, humor, and melancholy (often simultaneously).
Of course, I have only been able to read about this new book, but it sounds like it will a bit of a departure from earlier works in form and tone, and will definitely channel some of Toews’ rage against her former religion. She wrote it after learning that between 2005 and 2009 more than a hundred Mennonite women and girls in a community known as Manitoba Colony had been raped at night in their homes. The horrific string of crimes stopped when two men were caught entering a home one night ready to sedate and assault more women.
The book is a exactly what the title suggests: Toews creates a book-length conversation of Mennonite women and girls talking and responding to what has happened to them and their community. I am sure it will be a very interesting and emotional read. To read the full New Yorker article about Toews and her work, click here.
If you haven’t read anything she’s written, I highly recommend some of Toews’ earlier works as an introduction to her talents.
A Complicated Kindness (2004) is a darkly humorous coming-of-age novel about 16-year-old Nomi, who lives in a bleak Menonnite community in rural Manitoba with her father. Her mother and sister have left them; the book is her bitingly-funny adolescent skewering of the eccentricities and male-dominated control of her community and its religion. This is the book that launched Toews’ career.
All My Puny Sorrows (2014) is a novel based on her relationship with her sister. (Toews has said that the novel draws heavily on the events leading up to the 2010 suicide of her sister, Marjorie.) The sisters in her story are Elfrieda and Yoli, the only children in an intellectual, free-spirited family from a conservative Mennonite community. Elfrieda is a world-renowned pianist: glamorous, wealthy, happily married, but suicidal and fragile. Yolandi (based on Toews) is divorced and broke; all she wants is to find true love and to keep her older sister alive. Toews tells the story with her usual mix of humor, melacholy, and compassion. Goodreads says the story is simultaneously “tender and unquiet,” and I agree.
To place a hold on Women Talking, click here.
To request A Complicated Kindness, click here.
To request All My Puny Sorrows, click here.
Review by Roberta Jordan, Outreach and Instruction Librarian.
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