Monday, January 21, 2013

The Ballad of Tom Dooley by Sharon McCrumb

You've heard the Kingston Trio's song, "hang down your head, Tom Dooley... " and I'd have been happy to never have known any more than that about this terrible saga. But, Sharon McCrumb an excellent writer and researcher takes so many unlikeable characters (real people unfortunately) and they end up in this sad, horrible, true story that played out in the hills of North Carolina after the Civil War. 

Tom Dula, is a ne'er-do-well and the women in this book make him look ready for sainthood. 
It's a mountain mystery that McCrumb writes about and Tom Dula may have been hanged for a crime he never committed. He also may have written his own ballad!

While I had a hard time liking any of the folks in the book - you have to admire the style or the author and her prose. A new take an an old legend.

A Rose By Any Name

The Perfect Gift Book

A lovely book to share with any rose lover on your gift list. Perfect for that special Valentine - especially with some favorite roses too.  

Ever wonder how or why a rose is named? Why certain people (who are "they" anyway?) have roses named for them? What the history behind your favorite rose might be? Well the historical and cultural trivia is packed in this little book - fun for gardeners, trivia buffs and anyone who loves roses!

The Painted Girls

You can marvel at her face, the strength of purpose in  her ballerina stance, the thin legs, the pride of her upturned face and the arched discomfort from holding her hands behind her back.  Marie  Van Goethem was only 14, a “le petit rat,” of the Paris Opera and a working class child of truly humble origin when she posed for Impressionist Edgar Degas.  Her story and that of her sisters in the late 1870’s is told by historical novelist Cathy Marie Buchannan in THE PAINTED GIRLS, a rare look at a poor family of Paris and the daughters who flee to the Paris Opera House for ballet training and perhaps as adornments to men who wait in the wings.

The author does a superb job of telling the story of empty cupboards and lonely hearts, broken promises and broken hearts, fear and joy, reaching for a life just beyond the touch of the young girls, redemption and forgiveness. She also paints a Paris of the 18778-1895 rich in spectacle; famous men, art and science (well, this is arguable), and still the poor endure as always with little change in their day-to-day lives.

Three sisters, an absinthe addicted Mother, the Paris Opera, a murder trial, a kind baker, a secret lover, and Degas all are part of the novel that will keep a reader turning pages to discover more about Marie and her true life story.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

The House Girl

Artistic talent and skill are gifts given to chosen people and are not based on skin color or social standing as the historical novel HOUSE GIRL by Tara Conklin so beautifully illustrates.

 Josephine is a Virginia tobacco plantation slave who dreams of freedom, while in contemporary times Lina Sparrow an attorney, and daughter of an artist is beginning work on a slave reparations case.

As these two lives separated by time and sorrow merge; the story of Josephine and her mistress
Lu Anne Bell a famous artist begins to unravel – who is the truly gifted painter – was it really the young slave girl? As Lina researches Josephine’s story she learns many truths about herself, slavery, art and life.

A beautifully written book that combines historical facts such as the Underground Railroad along with rich details about plantation life for both slave and master. It is at heart a story of women reaching for more – wanting more and looking for their places in life – while trying to understand who they really are and what freedom actually means.

Author Conklin writes a seamless narrative of two worlds separated by hundreds of years that provide the reader with a depth of emotion that will linger long after the last page is read.

What happened to the son of Madame Butterfly?

I loved the idea of this book - what happened to the son of Madame Butterfly? A classic tale of love and the fruit of that love Ben "Trouble" Pinkerton has his tale related by author David Rain in a book that starts off so well you know it's  going to be a great read - and then it's such a disappointment.

I really had to struggle to stay with it and ended up wishing for a different story for the offspring of such a spellbinding love story.