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Book reviews - The Phantom Librarian
Spewing out too many words since November 2003
Book reviews
Well, I read a bunch of books. I reviewed the three f/sf ones here. There were also two historical titles.

Title: Summer of the War
Author: Gloria Whelan
ISBN: 0060080728
Genre: Historical
Plot summary: Belle's idyllic summer vacation in 1942 is disturbed by the arrival of her worldly cousin Carrie, who grew up in Europe, and whose father has returned there as the war is raging.
Verdict: Competent.

My verdict on this one is just... well... it's a perfectly competent novel. Characters are reasonably engaging, storyline is fine, historical and geographical setting are well portrayed, and I think I might have a snack or go to the store or maybe buy some new shoes or something.

Oh, wait, where was I?

Right, Summer of the War. Good book. It's set in an island on Lake Huron, and the main characters are the five grandchildren of the island's owner, especially the eldest girl of one family, Mirabelle, and the only child on the other side, Caroline (usually called "Carrie"), who comes to stay for the first time. There are real conflicts between the strong-willed Carrie and the equally strong-willed grandfather, which are viewed through the horrified eyes of Mirabelle as she watches the way her family has always been crumble as it hits these clashing personalities. Carrie, of course, has concerns that Belle doesn't realize right away, and Carried is unable to see what she is doing to the family--or worse, doesn't care.

All of this is very competently portrayed, with no technical problems that I could spot.

So why did I have to look up the names two days after I finished it?

Title: The Secret of the Rose
Author: Sarah L. Thomson
ISBN: 0060872500
Genre: Historical
Plot summary: Rosalind Archer and her brother Robin flee anti-Catholic authorities in Elizabethan England, and end up--in disguise--working at the Rose Theater, with Rosalind (re-made as "Richard") acting as scribe to Christopher Marlowe... who has a few secrets of his own.
Verdict: Excellent.

Rosalind and Robin enter a filthy and frightening London, and Thomson does a good job of presenting the facts of the world without letting them get in the way of telling the story. The very real problems that a girl would face trying to navigate the streets with nowhere to go are presented in a compact way without the decision to change into boy's clothing feeling rushed. The chance meeting with Marlowe not long afterward is over-convenient, but sometimes convenient things happen.

It's easy to forget the bloody animosity between Catholics and Protestants, even when it's known in a general way. This particular book is from the point of view of a Catholic in Protestant England, but it also talks about the massacre of Protestants in Catholic France (though Rosalind doesn't believe it, even as she copies out Marlowe's propagandistic manuscript on the subject). The confusion and fear comes off very well.

The story part of the story also unfolds well, with Rosalind enjoying her freedom, but wishing she was also herself... especially when she meets a boy who she likes very much. She never quite gets over the idea that her brother really wants to be an actor. She's loyal to her faith, but mainly blind to others... a very real attitude.

Is Marlowe like Marlowe? Hard to say; I didn't know the man. He's mercurial and moody, and I could buy him dying in a tavern brawl, at any rate (though the book suggests that there's more to it).
8 comments or Leave a comment
cheshyre From: cheshyre Date: August 9th, 2006 12:59 am (UTC) (Link)
Is Marlowe like Marlowe? Hard to say; I didn't know the man.

FWIW, I'm a Marlovian fan (in the sense of reading lots of books about the guy; not falling for any authorship nonsense) and I liked the portrayal of Marlowe.
cheshyre From: cheshyre Date: August 9th, 2006 01:20 am (UTC) (Link)
Is Marlowe like Marlowe?

No mention of the rumors regarding his sexuality -- which seemed fine in a YA fic -- but they imbued the concern over his atheism with just as much scandal.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: August 9th, 2006 01:48 am (UTC) (Link)
Yeah, and there's not much mention of his sexuality at all... which, given that he knows "Richard" isn't what "he" seems, may be an oblique reference.
dreamer_marie From: dreamer_marie Date: August 9th, 2006 01:10 am (UTC) (Link)
Is Marlowe like Marlowe? Hard to say; I didn't know the man.
rabidsamfan From: rabidsamfan Date: August 9th, 2006 01:37 am (UTC) (Link)
You probably had to look up names on the first one because so many books with the same plot have dragged down the shelves. Too bad this one's by a "going to be on the reading list" author.

The second one sounds like fun.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: August 9th, 2006 01:49 am (UTC) (Link)
It is; I ordered it.

There's nothing explicitly wrong with the Whelan, I guess. But if I were to assign a "homefront during WWII with the war intruding" book, I'd still go with A Separate Peace.
lyras From: lyras Date: August 9th, 2006 02:41 am (UTC) (Link)
Thanks for these reviews - that second one sounds right up my street (and reminiscent of Barbara Willard if you've ever read her?).
matril From: matril Date: August 9th, 2006 03:08 pm (UTC) (Link)
The second one sounds intriguingly self-reflective, because the plays during that partiuclar time period were chock-full of the girl-diguising-herself-as-a-boy plotlines, and the fact that they were portrayed by cross-dressing male actors made it all the more amusing. It's a whole lot of layers of disguise.
8 comments or Leave a comment