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Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Three good books!


Hi there! It looks like I've been holding out on you. I've got some good books to recommend, so here they are without further ado. All three are historical fiction with female protagonists. All three make great books for book club. The book covers are links to Amazon, as usual.




The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie by Alan Bradley
I read this one because it was chosen by my book club, and I loved it. It was a lot of fun to read, tough to put down, and not too scary or gory, as some mysteries can be.

The story follows Flavia, a girl living on the family estate in England in ... gosh I can't remember what year. But she rides a bike and uses a telephone, though it is somewhat unusual that their home has "the instrument." When Flavia finds a dead body in the back garden, she does what 10-year-old girls do best: finds out as much information as possible as unobtrusively as she can. And of course that leads to trouble.

This book comes the absolute closest to a Nancy Drew mystery that I've read in adulthood. Flavia and Nancy are both young girl detectives with independent transportation and permissive families, but Nancy generally is appreciated by the police. Flavia is not.

It made for a good book discussion with questions like "How realistic do you think it is that Flavia had the skills needed to solve the mystery?" "When did you know who the murderer was?" and "What ages do you think this book would be appropriate for?" It was generally agreed that 12+ would be fine.

This is the first in the series, and I would mind reading the other ones at all. The mystery is all tied up at the finish, but some loose ends about the characters remain.





The Hired Girl by Laura Amy Schlitz

I first heard this recommended by Leila Roy, who was gushing about it a couple of years ago. I finally picked it up, and I loved it. I was going to pick it for my next book club pick, but Bethany beat me to it!

The Hired Girl is the diary of a farm girl circa 1910. Her mother died a few years before the story opens, and we find her working like a slave (unpaid, unprivileged, constantly belittled) to keep the family farm going. When she sees advertisements for positions as a Hired Girl and realizes the worth of her work, she runs away from home and her abusive father. Of course, being a runaway in 1910 comes with its own huge set of challenges and learning experiences.

I think it can be really tricky to do a diary format novel right. I'm really picky about diary format, because I keep a personal diary. The author does a really good job here, and also makes the story so interesting that I was happy to forgive entries that seemed too long or too detailed to be completely realistic. The story was realistic, and captivating, and I can't wait to discuss it with the book club ladies. Everything from journal keeping and women working to domestic abuse and religion.

I loved the way that religion featured largely in the book. Religion features largely in my life, and I find that a lot of young adult literature these days doesn't touch the subject. our protagonists late mother was a different religion than her father, and other characters of other religions and various degrees of devotion to their religions are big in the book, and make the whole story more nuanced and believable.




The Grand Sophy by Georgette Heyer

Ashley has been telling me for a while now that I need to read some Georgette Heyer books. And as we all know Ashley has great taste. So I went over to the grown-up section and it looks like Heyer is prolific. I picked The Grand Sophy because I seemed to remember hearing about it before. Now that Bethany has stolen The Hired Girl as her book club pick, I think The Grand Sophy will be mine. (Do you hear that, friends? DIBS)

The Grand Sophy is set in post-Napoleonic England, and will remind you of Jane Austen's books if you've read them. (Heyer was not, however, a contemporary of Jane Austen. Heyer wrote The Grand Sophy in the 1950s.) The book follows a family in London whose situation is rough: father has gambled away all of the money, and his eldest son has inherited a fortune from an uncle. Because the eldest, Charles, has a good heart, he is helping his family out, but he's a bit of a tyrant about it. Into the picture comes cousin Sophy, who needs a place to stay while her father is out of the country on government business. She has all kinds of virtues and a few vices and upsets the apple cart in all the best ways.

This one was just SO fun to read. I laughed out loud several times and loved the scene with the moneylender, particularly. I have to wonder if Eugenia from the Mercy Watson books is named for Eugenia in this book. That will be something to ask Kate DiCamillo someday! Anyway, good call Ashley, and I'll definitely be reading some more Georgette Heyer.


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