Thursday, July 4, 2019

The Last Ballad and Faithful

Two more books I have read so far this summer:

Title: The Last Ballad: A Novel, Author: Wiley Cash
1) The Last Ballad by Wiley Cash-I had read another of Wiley Cash's books and liked it, so I was interested in reading this one when I saw it.  It was a good read, telling the story of women and men working in a mill in North Carolina in 1929.  Ella May Wiggins had four children and her husband had run off from her.  She worked twelve hours a day in the mill and made $9.00 a week.  Union organizers came to town, and Ella went to their rally just out of curiosity.  She  decided to join the movement.

The novel is based on a true story about Ella May Wiggins. It's very interesting and tragic.  Real life long ago? Sometimes I wonder.  Good book!

Faithful: A Novel2) Faithful by Alice Hoffman-yes, one of my favorite authors (I seem to have many).  Faithful is a story about Shelby Richmond who as a teenager was involved in a horrific accident and was left to live with the consequences.  She received an anonymous postcard reading just "Say something", with a drawing of Shelby's house on the front of it.  Over the next few years, she would receive more of the postcards. As soon as she could, Shelby moved to New York to start her life over.  She began working at a pet shop, met Marvelle, a single mother with three children, and eventually with help from others, Shelby finds herself.  It's a beautiful book of surviving and forgiving.  Another winner for Alice Hoffman!

Book Group Reads: My Ex-Life and The Clockmaker's Daughter

As usual, I am a bit behind in my blogging.  It's hard work being much to do! These two books were from each of my book groups:

My Ex-LifeMy Ex-Life by Stephen McCauley was a quick, fun read. It's a story about David and Julie, who were married to each other a lifetime ago.  David was living in San Francisco, in a bit of a bad place...his lover had left him, and he was going to have to leave his beautiful home.  Julie was going through a divorce with her second husband, Henry.  She and Henry owned a old Victorian home near Boston that Henry wanted to sell. Julie wanted to use it and continue to run an Airbnb there, but she didn't have the money to buy Henry out. Beside that issue, Julie and Henry's daughter, Mandy, was supposed to be thinking about what colleges to apply to and she seemed interested in anything but that.

After more than thirty years, Julie called David to ask for his help.  David flew out to Boston and immediately jumped in to help solve Julie's problems. As they worked together, they slowly began to work through past issues and began to move forward in their lives.

It was a very sweet story, fairly predictable, but with a few twists.

The Clockmaker's Daughter by Kate Morton is about as far away from My Ex-Life as one could get! I really liked this story and want to read it again.  I found it to be a quite complicated book to read.  It is told by various narrators over many years. Keeping everyone straight was difficult.

The Clockmaker's Daughter (B&N Exclusive Edition)Very simply, a little girl (the clockmaker's daughter), named Birdie who was seven years old, was abandoned in London in around 1850, told that her father had left for America and would send for her when he could.  She was taken in by Mrs. Mack, who took in children for a fee and then taught them lives of crime, including thievery and prostitution.  Birdie was befriended by one of the girls she lived with who taught her how to stay safe.

In 1861, Birdie fell in love with Edward Radcliffe, who was quite wealthy.  They were married and moved to Edward's home, Birchwood Manor.

"We came to Birchwood Manor because Edward said that it was haunted.  It wasn't. Not then."
The book primarily takes place at Birchwood Manor from 1861 to the present time. In 2017, Eloide Winslow was a young woman who was working for Stratton, Cadwell & Co. in the archives.  One day a box was found in an unused cloakroom.  The box was labeled "Contents of attic desk drawer, 1966-unlisted".  When she opened the box, she found a very old satchel which contained a picture, a note and a journal with drawings/sketches. This, of course, led her off onto solving the mystery of who these people had been.

"Eloide was a nostalgic person, but she hated the charge. The word was terribly maligned. People used it as a stand-in for sentimentality, when it wasn't that at all. Sentimentality was mawkish and cloying, where nostalgia was acute and aching.  It described yearning of the most profound kind: an awareness that time's passage could not be stopped and there was no going back to reclaim a moment or a person or to do things differently."

It is really a fascinating story and so well-written.  Just a warning-take a few notes as you go to keep everything straight!