Thursday, May 2, 2019

#BookReview: The Things We Cannot Say by Kelly Rimmer

Genre
War Era Historical

Buy Links
Amazon US
Amazon UK
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Social Media
Official Website
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DESCRIPTION:  
In 1942, Europe remains in the relentless grip of war. Just beyond the tents of the Russian refugee camp she calls home, a young woman speaks her wedding vows. It’s a decision that will alter her destiny…and it’s a lie that will remain buried until the next century.

Since she was nine years old, Alina Dziak knew she would marry her best friend, Tomasz. Now fifteen and engaged, Alina is unconcerned by reports of Nazi soldiers at the Polish border, believing her neighbors that they pose no real threat, and dreams instead of the day Tomasz returns from college in Warsaw so they can be married. But little by little, injustice by brutal injustice, the Nazi occupation takes hold, and Alina’s tiny rural village, its families, are divided by fear and hate.

Then, as the fabric of their lives is slowly picked apart, Tomasz disappears. Where Alina used to measure time between visits from her beloved, now she measures the spaces between hope and despair, waiting for word from Tomasz and avoiding the attentions of the soldiers who patrol her parents’ farm. But for now, even deafening silence is preferable to grief.

Slipping between Nazi-occupied Poland and the frenetic pace of modern life, Kelly Rimmer creates an emotional and finely wrought narrative. The Things We Cannot Say is an unshakable reminder of the devastation when truth is silenced…and how it can take a lifetime to find our voice before we learn to trust it.

REVIEW: 
Before I get too far ahead of myself, I want to say that Kelly Rimmer’s The Things We Cannot Say got under my skin. I am convinced those who bore witness took the audible exasperations I uttered at my kindle while reading this book as confirmation of my insanity, but Rimmer’s portrait of Alice’s family life is so tangibly poignant that I couldn’t help myself. Powerful writing inspires response, and there’s simply no denying that Rimmer’s mastery of language and gift for storytelling demands such in spades.

Having said this, I want to address the question I hope you’re all asking yourself at this point: Who in all hell is Alice?

I swear on all the goodness of coffee, the only stimulant in my system is caffeine. I’ve not lost it, and neither have you. Marketing, for some reason known only to the gods of publishing, released the US edition of this book with a description that fails to note the novel’s second narrator. Half of this book, arguably the more compelling and emotional half, centers on a modern marriage struggling to cope in the face of spousal resentment, poor communication, and the challenges of raising a child with autism.

It’s compelling material, to say the least, it’s beautifully drawn, and it looks like it’d shelf nicely alongside Rimmer’s backlist of contemporary women’s fiction. My problem and I stress this is my problem as it has more to do with my tastes than any perceived flaw, is that Alina’s storyline did not read with the same authenticity or depth as Alice’s. All the working parts are in place, but the historic presentation felt mechanical and pale alongside the emotional drama of the contemporary storyline.

Now I don’t blame you for thinking I am a heartless critic at this point, but before you come to the wrong conclusion, understand that I came to this book for the historical content and left it feeling the history was the weakest part of the narrative. The Things We Cannot Say introduced me to an author with immense talent, but I can’t deny feeling misled into thinking the novel a heavier historical than it is (thank you marketing!). I definitely see myself recommending the book to fellow readers, but at the end of the day, that recommendation will cite Rimmer’s emotional rendering of women and their life experiences far more often than it will her illustration of Poland’s occupation.

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
Obtained from: Netgalley
Read: April 30, 2019
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Wednesday, May 1, 2019

#BookReview: Jane the Quene by Janet Ambrosi Wertman

Genre
Biographic Fiction

Series
The Seymour Saga #1

Buy Links
Amazon US
Amazon UK
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Social Media
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DESCRIPTION:  
All Jane Seymour wants is a husband; but when she catches the eye of a volatile king, she is pulled deep into the Tudor court's realm of plot and intrigue....

England. 1535. Jane Seymour is 27 years old and increasingly desperate for the marriage that will provide her a real place in the world. She gets the perfect opportunity to shine when the court visits Wolf Hall, the Seymour ancestral manor. With new poise born from this event, it seems certain that her efficiency and diligence will shine through and finally attract a suitor.

Meanwhile, King Henry VIII is 45 and increasingly desperate for a son to secure his legacy. He left his first wife, a princess of Spain, changing his country's religion in the process, to marry Anne Boleyn -- but she too has failed to deliver the promised heir. As Henry begins to fear he is cursed, Jane Seymour's honesty and innocence conjure redemption. Thomas Cromwell, an ambitious clerk who has built a career on strategically satisfying the King's desires, sees in Jane the perfect vehicle to calm the political unrest that threatens the country: he engineers the plot that ends with Jane becoming the King's third wife.

Jane believes herself virtuous and her actions justified, but early miscarriages shake her confidence and hopes. How can a woman who has done nothing wrong herself deal with the guilt of how she unseated her predecessor?

REVIEW: 
When presented the opportunity to read Janet Wertman’s Jane the Quene, I found myself asking two very distinct questions: “Could this author bring fresh perspective where the Tudors are concerned?” and “What caused the ‘n’ to cut the line in the novel’s title?” The story satisfied my curiosity on both counts, and while I’m sorely tempted to spout the sort of vague praise that inspires quick purchase, I feel doing so would be a disservice to the material as the book has so much to recommend it.

The title takes its spelling from Jane’s signature. I mention this not to patronize those who, like myself, rarely consider original spellings, but to illustrate Wertman’s dedication to accuracy. This is an author who is fiercely passionate about her subject matter and respects that even the smallest details merit her attention. Wertman’s awareness of the world her characters knew is evidenced in everything from the contents of a Tudor era kitchen garden to the potential double meaning in an arrangement of a bowl of fruit, a fact which in and of itself greatly enhanced my experience of her work.

Wertman’s Jane is pure of heart, but she has a spirit and the fortitude to flirt with the flame despite intimately understanding how intensely it burns. She is not a pawn though she’s willing to let others believe it of her, and she is not a siren bent on appealing to Henry’s baser instincts. She is a relatable and deeply intuitive soul who, in a court famous for its intrigues and conspiracies, stands as a woman of admirable conviction.

Wertman’s Henry VIII is also noteworthy. He is not void of arrogance, but he lacks the overt cockiness, and raw sexuality so often attributed him. Wertman’s Henry is a man who can conceivably tempt six women to the marriage bed, and I found much to appreciate in her approach. His historical reputation is larger than life, but between these pages, Henry exists as a man. A conflicted, volatile, and passionate man, but a man just the same.

Finally, I want to note my admiration for the structure of this novel. Wertman uses Jane’s limited tenure as Henry consort to her advantage by heading each section with both the date and time. The end result creates a sense of urgency even for those aware of Jane’s fate, and I liked how that engaged my imagination over the course of my reading.

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
Obtained from: Author
Read: April 27, 2019
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