Jardine, L. (2005). The awful end of Prince William the Silent: The first assassination of a head of state with a handgun. New York: HarperCollins. 9780060838355
My reasons for reading this book were threefold. First of all, I’m an amateur genealogist and discovered in 2010 that I may have descended from Prince William himself. Secondly, I’ve long enjoyed reading biographies and thought the True Crime genre aspect added some interest to it. Additionally, I found the reaction of William’s contemporaries to also be intriguing. Lastly, I registered to participate in 2011 Non-Fiction Challenge hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. After requesting the purchase, I happily checked out the book from HCPL.
In summary, Jardine gives the reader an overview of Protestant Prince William of Orange’s assassination by a French Catholic. Also, she sets the scene of young Holland’s struggle to overthrow the Hapsburg’s Catholic rule. She ends by describing the reactions of Elizabeth I and the birth of a nasty trend; taking out governmental leaders with bullets.
I thought Jardine did a great job in describing the players central to this episode of history. She drew Prince William, the Hapsburgs, and Balthasar Gérard very clearly. Jardine covered the points necessary without pedanticalness and I certainly appreciated that!
Four Out of Five Pearls
Places: The Netherlands, Germany, England, Spain, France
- The Wicked History Series by various authors
- Blood and Money by Thomas Thompson
- The Cop Who Wouldn’t Quit by Rick Nelson
- The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot
For more on Lisa Jardine’s The awful end of Prince William the Silent: The first assassination of a head of state with a handgun, check out the following links:
- Review of The Awful End of Prince William the Silent: The First Assassination of a Head of State with a Handgun by Lisa Jardine | Revish
- The Awful End Of Prince William The Silent by Lisa Jardine – Reviews, Books – The Independent
- Number one with a bullet: Lisa Jardine pinpoints one of the moments that changed history in her engrossing The Awful End of Prince William the Silent, says Peter Preston
Hemingway, E., & William, H. (1926). Ernest Hemingway’s The sun also rises. New York: Simon & Schuster, Inc. 9780743564410
I attempted reading this particular Hemingway novel several years ago but wasn’t in the mood. So, I added this to my “To Be Read/TBR” list and read other books. In my perpetual quest for shorter audiobooks, I stumbled upon The Sun Also Rises in the HCPL catalog. When I noticed that the narrator was William Hurt, I decided to give The Sun Also Rises another try.
Narrator Jake Barnes is an American journalist expatriate in Paris as well as a World War I veteran. Injuries from WWI have rendered Jake impotent. He drinks a lot and is a bullfighting aficionado.
Jake begins the novel by describing his “friend” Robert Cohn. Cohn is a rich Jewish American expatriate who, like Jake, is a writer. Cohn didn’t fight in The Great War. Facing much anti-Semitism at Princeton, Cohn has grown a chip on his shoulder; he fits right in with his contemporaries of Rive Gauche and the Lost Generation. Cohn lives with his social-climbing girlfriend Frances Clyne.
Listlessly, Cohn seeks escape and stops by Jake’s office to get him to go to South America with him. Jake turns him down and avoids Cohn as much as possible. That evening, Jake drifts through bars and clubs and eventually runs into the love of his life. The beautiful, magnetic Lady Brett Ashley is a twice-divorced Englishwoman whom Jake met during the War. Brett loves Jake but will not commit to Jake due to his impotence. Brett does not commit to any man. Cohn sees Brett, falls for her, and an affair ensues.
All of this proves calamitous when Jake treks to Pamplona to see the bullfights. Jake’s an aficionado whereas his friends want to party. He’s joined by fellow expatriate and war veteran Bill Gorton, Brett, Cohn, and Mike Campbell, Brett’s fiancé. When the handsome bullfighter Romero enters the scene, Brett wants him. At this point, Brett has three men competing for her attention.
The writing and tragedy are exquisite. Jake’s star-crossed love is poignant; the disconnect of this group is stiffling. Jake finds himself in a bind – should he extend Brett in the form of Romero or should he remain true to the code of Spaniard bullfighting aficionados?
Four Out of Five Pearls
Places: France, Spain, The United States, The United Kingdom, Italy
For more on Ernest Hemingway’s The Sun Also Rises, check out the following:
Card, O. S. (1996). Pastwatch: The redemption of Christopher Columbus. New York: TOR. 9780312850586
One of the programs offered at the library takes place every August. This is the AP Book Discussion sessions. One of the books some of the kids in Clear Creek I.S.D. read was Orson Scott Card’s Pastwatch: The redemption of Christopher Columbus. As I’m not the biggest Sci-Fi fan, I had never read Card but the time travel motif appealed to me. So, I picked up this book in February.
Initially, we have two storylines. The first one reads like a biography of Christopher Columbus (taking place in the late 1400s.) The other line introduces people living in the twenty-third century. They are living in a depleted planet and a group called Pastwatch studies human history.
Columbus struggles to make his way to the Far East. Tagiri, generations into the future, observes the past with her TempoView in Juba, Sudan. Tagiri studies her genealogy, finding a boy stolen into slavery. She leads a group to find that all the woes of the world were begotten by slavery. Additionally, she sees that the one who brought it to the Western Hemisphere was no other than Columbus. When Tagiri and Pastwatcher Hassan realize Haitians in the 1400s can Tagiri and Hassan, they study the chances of changing the past to preserve a future. Tagiri and Hassan marry, have two children. Their daughter, Diko, joins their effort. Also, the great Kemel and the “underachiever” Hunaphu get on board.
These concepts of alternate history, time travel, and undoing slavery still fascinate me. Also, I was quite impressed with a historical figure that I took for granted. Card presents many questions; “If I could undo a wrong, would I?,” “Was Columbus the vector of slavery?,” and “Why did Columbus go West?”
While the plot intrigues, the characters and the dialogue was hard for me to buy. A five year old Diko asked her mother if she were cute at two. That’s unrealistic! Furthermore, I’m not sure I buy Tagiri being a compassionate woman. I found the guys – Kemel, Hunaphu, and Columbus – much more believable.
Here’s my last question: Where are the other Pastwatch books?
Three Out of Five Pearls
Places: Juba, Sudan; Genova, Italy; Lagos, Portugal; Spain; Hispaniola, Mexico
Word Bank: Caravel,
For more on Card’s Pastwatch: The redemption of Christopher Columbus, please check out the following links:
- Family History – Exploring the Past: Christopher Columbus Dug Up
- Cardathon Challenge: Becky’s Review of Pastwatch: The Redemption of Christopher Columbus
- Books By Orson Scott Card – Pastwatch – The Redemption of Christopher Columbus
Seton, A., & Gregory, P. (2004). Katherine a novel. Chicago, Ill:Chicago Review Press. 9781556525322
Katherine tells the story of actual Katherine Swynford (neé de Roet), a pivotal player in the history of English royalty. In the Fourteenth Century, lady in-waiting to Queen Philippa, Philippa de Roet sends for her younger sister, Katherine. Katherine de Roet has been living at a small, country convent. With the prioress, Katherine makes the journey to London. Innocent Katherine takes the London court by storm with her beauty. She comes to the attention of rough knight, Hugh Swynford, and John of Gaunt, the Duke of Lancaster and fourth son of the king and Blanche, the Duchess of Lancaster. Katherine more than reluctantly marries Swynford but the Lancasters do not forget Katherine. In a few years, while John of Gaunt and Swynford are dealing with the 100 Years War, a plague claims many victims including Blanche of Lancaster. However, Katherine eases Blanche’s suffering and finds a priest to administer the Duchess’s last rites. In grief, John of Gaunt takes notice of the lovely Katherine and gives her her own coat of arms, bearing three wheels which signify St. Catherine and Katherine’s maiden name, de Roet. From there, the relationship escalates into an affair which has stunning and long lasting effects on not only their contemporaries but their descendants as it precipitates the Wars of the Roses.
This particular work of historical fiction is remarkable in the amount of research done on an era long past in order to make the novel seem authentic. Having published this in the 1950s, Anya Seton had to research. While most of the narrative takes place in England, Katherine and other characters are Flemish and speak French. Seton’s characters sometimes converse in an older form of French. In a note preceding the novel, Seton explained that she used the names of people she saw in registers. Also, most of the characters are real: Katherine, John of Gaunt, Katherine’s brother in-law Geoffrey Chaucer, John Wycliffe, etc. Seton provides much detail of Medieval English life. With this, the reader experiences the difficulty of survival, particularly of women such as Katherine.
My mom remembered reading this book as a teenager and this spurred her interest in both English history and literature. When I read it, I was fascinated by the book and some of the people who made cameos. The mention of John Wycliffe has spurred quite a bit of amateur research on my part. In reading the 2004 version, I was able to read a foreword by Philippa Gregory (writer, The Other Boleyn Sister). Like Gregory, I think Seton set the tone for the historical novel. Seton did her homework and her creation was a labor of love. Gregory also points out how Seton subscribed to Freudian concepts and had a 1950s mindset. Although I agree with this as well, I think Katherine is an excellent work.
I would recommend Katherine to the female historical fiction audience. It is a bit romantic. Also, this would be a great introduction to some nonfiction work on English history. The world’s interest in Katherine Swynford has led to many websites dedicated to her. Readers may catch the craze. Also, the reader must not be opposed to long novels; Katherine is over 500 pages.
Four out of Five Pearls
Cisneros, S. (2002). Caramelo. New York: Harper Audio. 9780060515911
Cisneros, S. (2002). In Caramelo, or, Puro cuento: A novel. New York: Knopf. 9781400041503
Caramelo was a novel of epic proportions (eighty plus chapters) written by well-known author Sandra Cisneros (The House on Mango Street). The book was published in 2002 by Harper Collins. The audio book is read by author Sandra Cisneros. I both listened to and read Caramelo.
This book seemed semi-autobiographical to me. Like the narrator, Lala Reyes, Cisneros was born into a large family and she was born in Chicago in the 1950s. Also, both are the only daughters born into the family. Each is of Mexican descent and, of course, each woman can really spin a thread. Nonetheless, the novel is prefaced with, perhaps, a caveat saying that not one bit is true. In fact, Cisneros disclaims, “If, in the course of my inventing, I have inadvertently stumbled on the truth, perdónenme.” Caramelo came in a Spanish edition as well. The English version which I experienced is liberally sprinkled with authentic Spanish phrases.
A few things about Caramelo caught my attention before I decided to read the book. The mention of the rebozo of San Luis Potosi, Mexico reminded me of mission trips I went on to SLP and my own search for a rebozo. Also, I read the back and saw that part of the book takes place in San Antonio, each Texan’s second home town. Then, there was the curiosity about Cisneros’s writing style. So, I gave Caramelo a chance.
With Caramelo, the reader is given a chance to learn or brush up on Mexican history, immerse him/herself in the Mexican-American experience as well as learn the stories and, sometimes, the Reyes family history. The young narrator, Celaya “Lala” Reyes provides her audience a window into her heritage, weaving in strands to create a rich, poignant caramelo rebozo of a tale.
Lala’s paternal grandmother, Soledad Reyes, comes from a family of the legendary, Mexican shawl of San Luis Potosi. The book begins with an annual summer pilgrimage from Lala’s native Chicago to visit the grandparents, the Awful Grandmother and the Little Grandfather, in Mexico City.
Caramelo begins with one such summer when Lala was a little girl. Here, the Awful Grandmother rules the roost. The Awful Grandmother dotes on her favorite child, Lala’s father, Inocencio, to the irritation of Lala’s mother, Zoila, and to the exclusion of the rest of the Awful Grandmother’s children. When Zoila reaches her breaking point with the Awful Grandmother, the story takes the reader on a journey to the time the Awful Grandmother was a sad, lonely little girl called Soledad Reyes.
The reader finds the little Soledad being sent with her late mother’s caramelo rebozo, a shawl of boasting the colors of toffee, licorice, and vanilla, (Cisneros 94) to Mexico City from San Luis Potosi and into a fateful introduction to Narciso Reyes (the Little Grandfather). In the midst of the Mexican Revolution (1911 – 1920), Narciso and Soledad come together, marry, and start of family. Inocencio, the first child and the favorite of Soledad, was born. As a young man, Inocencio moves to United States and works his way to Chicago, and meets Mexican-American Zoila.
The Awful Grandmother moves in with the Chicago Reyeses after the death of the Little Grandfather. At first, they all live in Chicago. Then, they all move to San Antonio where the Awful Grandmother dies. Teenage granddaughter Lala is left with numerous loose ends and looks into the family histories and stories to better understand her late grandmother.
Some reviewers have compared Caramelo to John Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath. I believe that while the Reyes family may not be monetarily wealthy, they are rich with stories and identity. At times this book was reminiscent of Forrest Gump in the numerous appearances of famous and/or infamous, true people. However, I did like the historical context these cameos lent the work.
For the most part, I enjoyed listening to this book. Cisneros was able to better convey her points with her vocal characterizations – from the Awful Grandmother’s whine to Inocencio’s formality to Zoila’s crackling sarcasm. Additionally, Cisneros can pronounce these words. She knows her own stuff and that’s great. Still, it was good to have the book to see exactly how some of these words looked so I could say, “Oh, that’s how you say that word.” If anyone has as little understanding of Spanish as I, Caramelo may be a struggle.
I appreciated that many of the characters had an oft-repeated sentiment throughout the work. Narciso (the Little Grandfather) was a man feo, fuerte, y formal although he was not ugly (Cisneros, 103) while Soledad (the Awful Grandmother) reminds herself “Just enough, but not too much (92).
I am happy I stuck it out, though. I was able to see Lala make and wear her very own rebozo with the help of various relatives, especially her grandmother. Thus, I recommend this to the patient history buff out there.
Caramelo receives three out of five pearls from me.