Sunday, July 25, 2010

Keeping The House by Ellen Baker

This was a fun book with enough mystery to make it a page turner. The story spans 3 generations and two World Wars. The Michelson house sits high on a hill looking down on it's neighbours, as do the inhabitants of the house. The house is said to be cursed because it was built on the grave of an indian princess who had committed suicide by throwing herself into the Bear Creek River. 

When the main character, Dolly Magnuson, is introduced she has just moved to Pine Rapids with her new husband Byron. It is 1950 and I find the life of a 1950 housewife funny, she had an apron shower - she has 40 aprons and always wears one that matches her dress when she serves dinner. But at the same time, in today's terms, her husband is a total jerk like when he complains that there were no freshly ironed shirts in his closet for him to wear and that it's Dolly's job to make sure he always has freshly laundered and ironed shirts. They were in fact ironed, but Dolly had forgotten to bring them up from the basement which, in her eyes, was a failure to be a proper wife. 

When Dolly arrives in Pine Rapids the Mickleson house is empty and badly in need of TLC. Dolly believes that if she and Byron could buy that house and she could fix it up that it would improve their marriage and they would be happier than they are living in their small bungalow.

The ensuing story takes us back to the beginning when the house was built and through two generations of the experiences and losses of the Mickleson family. At the same time we follow Dolly to her women's meeting where she learns more about the house via the gossip mill. 

I love books with a twist and this book has one heck of a twist about 3/4 of the way through. 

This is Ellen Baker's first novel and if this is any indication of her writing ability she's going to be a force to be reckoned with by her fellow authors. 

It's up to the reader to ask themselves if the house really is cursed or if the inhabitants used the story of the curse to excuse their bad deeds and behaviours. 

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Fatally Flakey by Diane Mott Davidson

This is Diane's 15th book in the Goldy the Caterer series. I really enjoyed this one. I've read all of her books now and was actually was kind of able to figure out what the mystery was that caused the death of old Dr. Finn and Goldy's godfather Jack when I was a little over half way through the book. The murderer, however, was a different story and a huge surprise. On the other hand it also answered a whole lot of questions that made mego "hmmm."  One thing about a series too is being able to see the characters grow. Goldy's son Arch who was only about 6 or 7 when the first book was written is now 16 and has his driver's license. It's like watching my own kids grow again. They say that Sarah Graves Home Repair Homicide Mysteries are like Diane Mott Davidson with a hammer. It's very true. Their writing styles are similar and both series are really enjoyable.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Someone Knows My Name by Lawrence Hill

I'm listing this book under the name it is published as in the Untied States. I don't find the Canadian name offensive because I am white and because the name of the book refers to an archival genealogy document, it is not meant to offend. Lawrence Hill lives in Manitoba and he is black. The Canadian name of the book is The Book of Negroes. For a first book it is absolutely amazing. My only disappointment was when I reached the end of the book only to discover that his main character was fictional. I grew very attached to her. I admired her courage, her intelligence, her choices and I cried with her disappointments and losses. Hopefully someone like her did actually exist even in a composite of different women.

She was kidnapped from her home in 1745 and sold in South Carolina. She eventually made her way to New York State. This was during the American Revolution. The English held Manhatten for many years before they surrendered. A part of the deal when they did surrender was that any blacks that had worked for the British for at least a year were given free passage, unmolested by previous owners, to Nova Scotia where they were promised land of their own. This is where the Book of Negroes comes into play. A list of names and descriptions was made of all those who were eligible to leave on ships going to Nova Scotia. The original document is in Kew, London, England and there are films available in archives in Canada and perhaps the US. Of course the promise of land never materialized in Nova Scotia however the people were free. They were then invited to colonize Sierra Leone in Africa. Again they were promised land... which never materialized but again they were free and they were back home where they belonged.

Our main character then travelled to Britain in 1802 to work with Abolitionists in London. This is where I so wanted her to be real. Her story was told to Parliament and in the book did make a difference. She was reunited with her daughter who had been taken from her many years earlier. It just was a very happy ending.

It was difficult to read this book because of the cruelty brought to light. But I believe it is good for us to read about these things, not in a straight history book, but in a novel where we can see how it affected an individual. It would be nice if a movie or series was one day made from the book similar to the Roots series.