Book Review: Golden Hill by Francis Spufford

Golden HillGolden Hill

A Novel of Old New York

by Francis Spufford

Scribner

General Fiction (Adult)

New York, a small town on the tip of Manhattan island, 1746. One rainy evening in November, a handsome young stranger fresh off the boat arrives at a counting house door on Golden Hill Street: this is Mr. Smith, amiable, charming, yet strangely determined to keep suspicion shimmering. For in his pocket, he has what seems to be an order for a thousand pounds, a huge sum, and he won’t explain why, or where he comes from, or what he is planning to do in the colonies that requires so much money. Should the New York merchants trust him? Should they risk their credit and refuse to pay? Should they befriend him, seduce him, arrest him; maybe even kill him?

My thoughts:

I was thrilled when I picked up this book to read and review. It seemed to have everything I have been looking for in a story. Male protagonist, an early New York setting, intrigue, and a mystery of a man no one knows and everyone is talking about him. When people meet him he is intelligent and speaks eloquently but gives very little of himself away. Meanwhile, as he waits for his “thousand pounds” to be legitimized-if you will-he meets many interesting people and gets himself into some trouble.

The major points in the story for me was the beautiful prose, brilliantly drawn characters and time and place of the story. However, I will have to say as I got further into the book the prose was getting to be too much and it seemed to take away from the plot and my eyes started to gaze over somewhat.  To me there are too many unnecessary prose in the book that did not enhance the story-line however “literary” people might find Golden Hill.

Overall the plot needed to have more substance and to be fleshed out more. Having said all this, I am rating this book three stars and five stars for the cover.

I obtained a review copy of Golden Hill through NetGalley from the publishers for an honest review.

Stephanie M. Hopkins

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Wish-List 5: Early American Literature

me-iiAmerican History and Literature is of great importance to me. Right now I’m in the middle of studying extensively the War Between the States but often times in my research I need to go back further than that. Doing so gives me a greater understanding of the creation of our great nation, how our government works, how they evolved and what was in the minds of our early settlers and founders. In today’s society, there are so many Americans who do not know their history and do not know what it means to be an American. For many reasons- I won’t go into today-but I will say much of the blame goes to the public school system and our government. We have become a nation of political correctness and we are erasing our history. In my opinion that shows weakness and cowardliness on our part and should be stopped. On Facebook I shared a quote that says, “A nation which does not remember what it was yesterday, does not know where it is today.” The rest of the quote-by Woodrow Wilson-say’s, “…nor what it is trying to do. We are trying to do a futile thing if we do not know where we came from or what we have been about.”

Today’s wish-list is one I am actually putting at the top of my reading pile soon. Some of these works I am familiar with and have read a bit of. Alas, it has been years and I would like to refresh my mind with these readings.

Stephanie M. Hopkins

The Works of Anne BradstreetThe Works of Anne Bradstreet (John Harvard Library) by Anne Bradstreet

Anne Bradstreet, the first true poet in the American colonies, wrote at a time and in a place where any literary creation was rare and difficult and that of a woman more unusual still. Born in England and brought up in the household of the Earl of Lincoln where her father, Thomas Dudley, was steward, Anne Bradstreet sailed to Massachusetts Bay in 1630, shortly after her marriage at sixteen to Simon Bradstreet. For the next forty years she lived in the New England wilderness, raising a family of eight, combating sickness and hardship, and writing the verse that made her, as the poet Adrienne Rich says in her Foreword to this edition, “the first non-didactic American poet, the first to give an embodiment to American nature, the first in whom personal intention appears to precede Puritan dogma as an impulse to verse.”

All Anne Bradstreet’s extant poetry and prose is published here with modernized spelling and punctuation. This volume reproduces the second edition of “Several Poems,” brought out in Boston in 1678, as well as the contents of a manuscript first printed in 1857. Adrienne Rich’s Foreword offers a sensitive and illuminating critique of Anne Bradstreet both as a person and as a writer, and the Introduction, scholarly notes, and appendices by Jeannine Hensley make this an authoritative edition.

Adrienne Rich observes, “Intellectual intensity among women gave cause for uneasiness” at this period–a fact borne out by the lines in the Prologue to the early poems: “I am obnoxious to each carping tongue/ Who says my hand a needle better fits.” The broad scope of Anne Bradstreet’s own learning and reading is most evident in the literary and historical allusions of “The Tenth Muse,” the first edition of her poems, published in London in 1650. Her later verse and her prose meditations strike a more personal note, however, and reveal both a passionate religious sense and a depth of feeling for her husband, her children, the fears and disappointments she constantly faced, and the consoling power of nature. Imbued with a Puritan striving to turn all events to the glory of God, these writings bear the mark of a woman of strong spirit, charm, delicacy, and wit: in their intimate and meditative quality Anne Bradstreet is established as a poet of sensibility and permanent stature.

American Colonial WritingAmerican Colonial Writing (Essays) by Mary Rowlandson, William Bradford, John Smith, Anne Bradstreet, Thomas Morton, Elena Ortells

This anthology features a selection of works written during the first century of English settlement in the colonies of North America. These texts illustrate the extraordinary depth of colonial writing (chronicles, poetry, captivity narratives, etc.) and help us understand the origins and the future of America and Americans.

The Collected Writings of Samson Occom, Mohegan: Leadership and Literature in Eighteenth-Century Native America by Samson Occom

The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah EquianoThe Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano: Written by Himself by Olaudah Equiano, Robert J. Allison (Editor)

Widely admired for its vivid accounts of the slave trade, Olaudah Equiano’s autobiography — the first slave narrative to attract a significant readership — reveals many aspects of the eighteenth-century Western world through the experiences of one individual. The second edition reproduces the original London printing, supervised by Equiano in 1789. Robert J. Allison’s introduction, which places Equiano’s narrative in the context of the Atlantic slave trade, has been revised and updated to reflect the heated controversy surrounding Equiano’s birthplace, as well as the latest scholarship on Atlantic history and the history of slavery. Improved pedagogical features include contemporary illustrations with expanded captions and a map showing Equiano’s travels in greater detail. Helpful footnotes provide guidance throughout the eighteenth-century text, and a chronology and an up-to-date bibliography aid students in their study of this thought-provoking narrative.

Narrative of the Captivity and Restoration of Mrs. Mary RowlandsonNarrative of the Captivity and Restoration of Mrs. Mary Rowlandson by Mary Rowlandson

In February 1676, during King Philip’s War, the frontier village of Lancaster, Massachusetts, was attacked by a party of Nipmuck Indians and completely destroyed. As relief from Concord approached, the attackers withdrew, taking with them 24 captives, including Mrs. Mary Rowlandson and her three children.

For almost three months the little family was forced to live with their captors and endure exposure to a New England winter.The youngest child, who had been injured during the attack, failed to survive. Eventually ransom was paid and the family released.

Mrs. Rowlandson’s account of her experience was published in 1682. It became a”best-seller” of its day and created a new literary genre, the captivity narrative. Such accounts were in part responsible for the mistrust and hatred of the Indians that plagued the country for centuries. It is also the first publication in English by a woman in the New World.

The Puritan DilemmaThe Puritan Dilemma: The Story of John Winthrop (Library of American Biography) by Edmund S. Morgan

Caught between the ideals of God s Law and the practical needs of the people, John Winthrop walked a line few could tread. In every aspect of our society today we see the workings of the tension between individual freedom and the demands of authority. Here is the story of the people that brought this idea to our shores: The Puritans. Edmund Morgan relates the hardships and triumphs of the Puritan movement through this vivid account of its most influential leader, John Winthrop. The titles in the Library of American Biography Series make ideal supplements for American History Survey courses or other courses in American history where figures in history are explored. Paperback, brief, and inexpensive, each interpretive biography in this series focuses on a figure whose actions and ideas significantly influenced the course of American history and national life. In addition, each biography relates the life of its subject to the broader themes and developments of the times.”

Here are the wish lists from a few of my friends this month:

Erin @ Flashlight Commentary

Colleen @ A Literary Vacation

Heather @ The Maiden’s Court

Magdalena @ A Bookaholic Swede

Holly @ 2 Kids and Tired-coming soon

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Cover Reveal: Blood Moon (A Captive’s Tale) by Ruth Hull Chatlien

Blood Moon II

Blood Moon: A Captive’s Tale/ Author: Ruth Hull Chatlien

Publisher: Amika Press/ Publication Date: 6-14-2017

Pages: 424/ Price (paperback): $17.95/ Price (ebook): $5.95

Description: Southern Minnesota, August 1862. Smoke fills the horizon and blood soaks the prairie as the Sioux fight to drive white settlers from their ancestral homeland. Sarah Wakefield and her young son and baby daughter are fleeing for their lives when two warriors capture them. One is Hapa, who intends to murder them. The other is Chaska, an old acquaintance who promises to protect the family. Chaska shelters them in his mother’s tepee, but with emotions running so high among both Indians and whites, the danger only intensifies. As she struggles to protect herself and those she loves, Sarah is forced to choose between doing what others expect of her and following her own deep beliefs.

Author bio: Ruth Hull Chatlien has been a writer and editor of educational materials for nearly thirty years, specializing in U.S. and world history. She is the author of Modern American Indian Leaders for middle-grade readers. Her award-winning first novel, The Ambitious Madame Bonaparte, portrays the tumultuous life of Elizabeth “Betsy” Patterson Bonaparte. Her novel Blood Moon: A Captive’s Tale is based on the true story of Sarah Wakefield, survivor of the Dakota War of 1862.

To Preorder Paperback: Amika Press

To Preorder Kindle: Amazon

To Preorder Nook: B&N

To Preorder: Kobo

 

An Epic & Gritty Historical Fiction Series by Melissa Lenhardt

me-iiYesterday I posted about a series I discovered and how starting a series for me is a big commitment due to the overload of books I have to review. As you know, I stumbled across The Journals of Matthew Quinton Series. It looks so inviting and adventurous. Alas, after posting about it I jumped over to my Amazon account to check a few things and I saw that two more books have been written about a story I read and reviewed called, Sawbones by Melissa Lenhardt. I absolutely enjoyed the story! I rated it five stars and gave it a glowing review. I actually cheered when I saw that there were two more books and at the same time, sighed in a bit of frustration. I want more time in the day to get through all the books I want to read! Gah! *laughing* Dare I rearrange my reading priorities or stick to what I have and if I get through the ones I need to review first and read two books from the series I mentioned yesterday, then I can reward myself with the next two books following Sawbones? *Phew, that was a long sentience* Yes, that sounds like a good plan to me.  Meanwhile, take a look at my review of Sawbones and check out the other two books that follow it. By the way…I LOVE the covers!

Sawbones IISawbones (Laura Elliston #1)

Wrongfully accused of murder, Dr. Catherine Bennett is destined to hang… unless she can disappear.
With the untamed territory of Colorado as her most likely refuge, she packs her physician’s kit and heads West. But even with a new life and name, a female doctor with a bounty on her head can hide for only so long.

My Review:

I am really not all that interested in reading westerns. I never have been but when I saw this book and the title, it grabbed my attention. It really struck a cord with me.

Now, I feel the book description needs to be expanded on. Though even with writing this review, I was trying to work out how to pull what was not mentioned into my review without giving spoilers.

SAWBONES is a story you can talk about in several different ways. That is how diverse the themes are in the story. Having said that, those themes all come together and in such a dramatic way. The author did an incredible job with that. I was spell bounded.

First I’d like to mention a notable historical character in the story. William Tecumseh Sherman served as a General in the Union Army during the American Civil War. After burning everything in Georgia and the burning of Atlanta, I really didn’t care learning much about him after that particular information in our history. Though many people found him as an outstanding commander, I found his policies and actions deplorable. Though he plays a small roll in SAWBONES, his larger-than-life presence makes a big impression on me. Also, it was really interesting because I did not know anything about his tours of the Texas Forts after the Civil War. Now, I would like to find out more about that and I have the author of this book to thank for this.

As you will read in the book description, Catherine Bennett is wrongly accused of murder and flees out west to the untamed territories of Colorado and on that journal she experiences yet another life altering moment. Catherine paralyzed with fear, witnesses the massacre of the companions she is traveling with. The author does not shy away from describing the carnage done by the Comanche. This is only the beginning of the tragedies that struck her and the people she loves and conflicts she will witness and endure.

As a female doctor-rare of her time and not widely accepted, she is determined to prove her value and intelligence in a man’s world. I was particular drawn to her achievements of becoming a doctor and how the author portrayal Catherine’s moments of practicing medicine. They are empowering and defining.

There are many other wonderful characters in this story and the author has such a discerning writing style for their value to enrich a story.

SAWBONES had me emotionally invested, and ignited my imagination. The author is truly a gifted story-teller and I look forward to reading more of her work.

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Blood OathBlood Oath (Laura Elliston #2)

Outlander meets post-Civil War unrest in this action-packed follow up to Sawbones.

Laura Elliston and William Kindle are on the run — from the Army and from every miscreant in the West eager to claim the $500 bounty for Laura’s capture as their own. But the danger isn’t just from those pursuing them. Laura and Kindle have demons of their own and a past that won’t stay dead. Exhausted, scared, scarred and surrounded by enemies, neither realize the greatest danger is yet to come

 

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BadlandsBadlands (Laura Elliston #3)

Laura’s worst fears have been realized: Kindle has been taken into custody and she is once again on the run. The noose awaits her in New York, but Laura is realizing that there are some things worse than death. Finally running out of places to hide, it may be time for Dr. Catherine Bennett to face her past.

Bookish Happenings: Into the Wilderness

It’s been rather quiet on Layered Pages lately. I do promise to try to pick up the pace again soon. I have had a lot going on as many of you know. I’ve been reading a lot more lately so I have several reviews to draft. This past weekend I picked up, Into The Wilderness by Sara Donati. I am almost half way through it. For those of you who have read it, you will know it is a big novel to digest. I’m enjoying it thus far; the story takes place in one of my favorite periods in American History. Check out the Book blurb below.

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Into The Wilderness by Sara DonatiWeaving a vibrant tapestry of fact and fiction, Into the Wilderness sweeps us into another time and place…and into the heart of a forbidden, incandescent affair between a spinster Englishwoman and an American frontiersman. Here is an epic of romance and history that will captivate readers from the very first page.

When Elizabeth Middleton, twenty-nine years old and unmarried, leaves her Aunt Merriweather’s comfortable English estate to join her father and brother in the remote mountain village of Paradise on the edge of the New York wilderness, she does so with a strong will and an unwavering purpose: to teach school.

It is December of 1792 when she arrives in a cold climate unlike any she has ever experienced. And she meets a man different from any she has ever encountered–a white man dressed like a Native American, tall and lean and unsettling in his blunt honesty. He is Nathaniel Bonner, also known to the Mohawk people as Between-Two-Lives.

Determined to provide schooling for all the children of the village–white, black, and Native American–Elizabeth soon finds herself at odds with local slave owners. Much to her surprise, she clashes with her own father as well. Financially strapped, Judge Middleton has plans for his daughter–betrothal to local doctor Richard Todd. An alliance with Todd could extract her father from ruin but would call into question the ownership of Hidden Wolf, the mountain where Nathaniel, his father, and a small group of Native Americans live and hunt.

As Judge Middleton brings pressure to bear against his daughter, she is faced with a choice between compliance and deception, a flight into the forest, and a desire that will bend her hard will to compromise and transformation. Elizabeth’s ultimate destiny, here in the heart of the wilderness, lies in the odyssey to come: trials of faith and flesh, and passion born amid Nathaniel’s own secrets and divided soul.

Interweaving the fate of the remnants of the Mohawk Nation with the destiny of two lovers, Sara Donati’s compelling novel creates a complex, profound, passionate portrait of an emerging America.

American History: Colonial Craftmenship

colonial-craftsmen-iWhile my current focus of American History is on what many call, “The American Civil War” (1861-1865), I am also interested in the beginnings of the American Industry. I am thoroughly fascinated with colonial craftsmanship. From time to time while studying the civil war, I often mark and file research material that relate for other stories I have a mind to write about or explore. On Amazon I came across, Colonial Craftsmen: And the Beginnings of American Industry by Edwin Tunis and was thrilled! I have been looking for something like this for a while.  I have added it to my wish-list research pile of books I want to purchase next year or the years after. For all you American History enthusiast, I thought this might be of interest of you.

Stephanie M. Hopkins

Description:

The vanished ways of colonial America’s skilled craftsmen are vividly reconstructed in this superb book by Edwin Tunis. With incomparable wit and learning, and in over 450 meticulous drawings, the author describes the working methods and products, houses and shops, town and country trades, and individual and group enterprises by which the early Americans forged the economy of the New World.

In the tiny coastal settlements, which usually sprang up around a mill or near a tanyard, the first craftsmen set up their trades. The blacksmith, cooper, joiner, weaver, cordwainer, and housewright, working alone or with several assistants, invented their own tools and devised their own methods. Soon they were making products that far surpassed their early models: The American ax was so popular that English ironmongers often labeled their own axes “American” to sell them more readily. In the town squares a colonist could have his bread baked to order, bring in his wig to be curled, have his eyeglasses ground, his medicine prescription filled, or buy snuff for his many pocket boxes. With the thriving trade in “bespoke” or made-to-order work, fine American styles evolved; many of these are priceless heirlooms now―the silverware of Paul Revere and John Coney, redware and Queensware pottery, Poyntell hand-blocked wallpaper, the Kentucky rifle, Conestoga wagon, and the iron grillework still seen in some parts of the South. The author discusses in detail many of the trades which have since developed into important industries, like papermaking, glassmaking, shipbuilding, printing, and metalworking, often reconstructing from his own careful research the complex equipment used in these enterprises.

The ingenious, liberty-loving artisans left few written records of their work, and only Mr. Tunis, with his painstaking attention to authentic detail and his vast knowledge, could present such a complete treasury of the way things were done before machines obliterated this phase of early American life.

Book Review: Girl In Disguise by Greer MacAllister

girl-in-disguiseWith no money and no husband, Kate Warne finds herself with few choices. The streets of 1856 Chicago offer a desperate widow mostly trouble and ruin―unless that widow has a knack for manipulation and an unusually quick mind. In a bold move that no other woman has tried, Kate convinces the legendary Allan Pinkerton to hire her as a detective.

Battling criminals and coworkers alike, Kate immerses herself in the dangerous life of an operative, winning the right to tackle some of the agency’s toughest investigations. But is the woman she’s becoming―capable of any and all lies, swapping identities like dresses―the true Kate? Or has the real disguise been the good girl she always thought she was?

My Thoughts:

The Pinkerton Agency is widely known for their pursuit of Jesse James, the Dalton Brothers and Butch Cassidy’s Wild Bunch. What is not commonly known is the agency hired the first female Detective-Kate Warne- in the U.S. during the mid-1850’s. The founder Allan Pinkerton immigrated to Chicago from Scotland in the early 1840’s and joined the Chicago police department and soon after opened the first Pinkerton Agency. Before reading, Girl in Disguise, I had not known about Kate, so I was delighted when I discovered this book on NetGalley.

Kate Warne is an extraordinary woman-especially someone as independent as she was in the 1800’s. During those times it was unheard of for women to do what was considered a “Man’s job”. Allan Pinkerton was hesitant-if you will-to hire her but in his knowledge of undercover work, he knew that often times it was not easy for males to gain access to the people they were pursuing. With strong intellect and determination, Kate quickly proves herself to be invaluable and gains the trust of Pinkerton.

Kate’s talent for gathering information is well displayed in this story and gives you great insight into detective work and I found this highly fascinating to read about. As the story developed further, the Pinkerton Agency flourished and you really get a sense of the character’s will to fight for justice.

The second half of the story focuses on the American Civil War and the agencies role. This is where I learned some new things about the agency I had not realized before. I did find a few scenes disjointed and there is a brief romance that just seem to appear and I was not sure-at first- how that would play out in the story. In the end I believe it worked and really helped Kate’s motivation for the actions she took. I do question Kate’s ability to travel freely on her own while the war was raging and I’m not sure that was believable to me. Nonetheless it did not entirely distract me from enjoying the story.

After finishing the story, I tuned to the author’s notes and I was glad I did. I developed a deeper appreciation for the story from having read it and I highly recommend that readers take the time to do so.

I have rated this story four stars and obtained a copy from the publishers through NetGalley for an honest review.

Stephanie M. Hopkins