Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Two New Books Set in the Past

I read two books recently that brought the past to life, in two very different ways.

Bellman & Black was a rich and haunting book set in the late 1800's in England. Unmentionables brought to life small town America in the early 20th century.

In the beginning of Bellman & Black, William Bellman, a young boy with his friends, has an accident involving a rook. This incident follows him through the rest of his life. Setterfield creates a vivid world for William as he grows up, working hard in order to cover up his grief. He works hard and Bellman and Black is created. Interspersed throughout are passages about rooks, which help create depth and darkness in the atmosphere of the book. A very good read.

I read Bellman & Black on the Nook, and, as sometimes happens on the Nook for me, the ending of the book came sooner than I expected. On the Nook, the book was something like 342 pages long, but as is often the case, the last several pages are acknowledgements and so on, which take up space. In a regular book, I look ahead to see when the book actually ends (careful not to read anything on those last pages!). I don't do this on the Nook, and this somehow lessens my enjoyment of the book, through no fault of the book itself, just the format.

I was lucky enough to win an Early Reviewer copy of Laurie Loewenstein's Unmentionables from In it, we follow Marian, who travels the country in the early 1900's as a Chautauqua speaker, as well as Deuce and his step daughter Helen, two people she meets on her circuit. Marian is speaking about women's undergarments, the unmentionables of the title, urging women to wear less confining undergarments, allowing them to live more freely. This of course is shocking talk in the early 20th century.

I was drawn in by Marian's subject matter, as well as the whole idea of the Chautauqua speaking circuit, with which I was not familiar. Loewenstein brings Emporia, Illinois to life through her portrayal of the characters and the issues they dealt with. I liked following Marian on her travels, Deuce as a small town newspaperman who has to decide whether or not to print difficult information, and Helen, a young woman longing to be part of a big city and work for women's rights.

The book got a little slow for me in the middle, and perhaps a tad too tidy of an ending, but overall I enjoyed it and I felt enriched by the book. Definitely worth a look!


Thank you, librarything, for offering the Early Reviewer book giveaway!

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