February, so far, has been a busy month, reading-wise, and hugely disappointing. Three out of the four books I have read have not lived up to expectations.
My Darling Cecilia
If you're reading this, then I've died . . .
Imagine your husband wrote you a letter, to be opened after his death. Imagine, too, that the letter contains his deepest, darkest secret - something so terrible it would destroy not just the life you built together, but the lives of others too. Imagine, then, that you stumble across that letter while your husband is still very much alive . . .
Cecilia Fitzpatrick achieved it all - she's an incredibly successful business woman, a pillar of her small community and a devoted wife and mother. Her life is as orderly and spotless as her home. But that letter is about to change everything, and not just for her: Rachel and Tess barely know Cecilia - or each other - but they too are about to feel the earth-shattering repercussions of her husband's devastating secret.
I was mesmerized with the first few chapters, kept greedily turning the pages. But then I realized that things were getting shallower and shallower instead of deeper and deeper. It was like walking into a pool expecting to swim once you hit the deep end and discovering that you're wading in the kiddie pond. All of a sudden, it was clear that I didn't genuinely like any of the characters and that everyone--everyone!--seemed to be sour and/or dour and/or unhappy. Not a cheerful read by any means.
In New York Times bestselling author Tracy Chevalier’s newest historical saga, she introduces Honor Bright, a modest English Quaker who moves to Ohio in 1850, only to find herself alienated and alone in a strange land. Sick from the moment she leaves England, and fleeing personal disappointment, she is forced by family tragedy to rely on strangers in a harsh, unfamiliar landscape.
Nineteenth-century America is practical, precarious, and unsentimental, and scarred by the continuing injustice of slavery. In her new home Honor discovers that principles count for little, even within a religious community meant to be committed to human equality.
However, drawn into the clandestine activities of the Underground Railroad, a network helping runaway slaves escape to freedom, Honor befriends two surprising women who embody the remarkable power of defiance. Eventually she must decide if she too can act on what she believes in, whatever the personal costs.
I've never been a big Chevalier fan, but this is by far the most useless work that she has written to date. Some could argue that the lack of maturity in the plot mirrors that of the main character, who is thrust out on her own in an unfamiliar world at the age of 20. For all the hype about it being historical fiction, it felt like a lame romance novel written with adolescent language. From it I learned something about Quakers and quilt-making and a little about slavery, but the story just didn’t grab me – it was all so predictable.
When Vianne Rocher receives a letter from beyond the grave, she has no choice but to return to Lansquenet, where she once owned a chocolate shop and learned the meaning of home. But returning to one’s past can be a dangerous pursuit, and Vianne and her daughters find the beautiful French village changed in unexpected ways: women veiled in black, the scent of spices in the air, and—facing the church—a minaret. Most surprising of all, her old nemesis, Francis Reynaud, desperately needs her help. Can Vianne work her magic once more ..
I really struggled with this book. I really wanted to like it, it was billed as a sequel to Chocolat, but I just couldn't get into it, the action was so repetitive and I couldn't seem to rekindle my love for the characters. I think Ms. Harris has squeezed one book too many out of this series.
Eithne is the keeper of secrets in her family. When her sister Beatrice disappeared from her home in the dark woods of Co. Meath, it was 13-year-old Eithne who uncovered the forlorn evidence of her life: a string of pearls, a pink beret, a compact and her beloved sketchbook. Their mother, Sarah, was so grief-stricken that she did not speak for five years, and her father Joe, sank further into drink-filled rage.
Now, as an adult, Eithne is an artist, and tries to remember her sister in her sketches of the dark wooded bogs behind her house. For there was something else about Beatrice that was rarely spoken of in the household, a dark, guilty secret that her disappearance only made worse. And now, almost twenty years later, all could be revealed when a stranger appears .
I can’t quite make my mind up about this book – it was beautifully descriptive but the dialogue was a little lame and although the pace of it kept me wondering what was going to happen next it became fairly predictable. The female characters didn’t seem to have any control over their lives and let themselves become victims and she could have enlarged the plot around a couple of interesting characters that just became secondary to the story.
The next book from my pile is
As late summer steals in and the final pearls of barley are gleaned, a village comes under threat. A trio of outsiders – two men and a dangerously magnetic women – arrives on the woodland borders triggering a series of events that will see Walter Thirsk’s village unmade in just seven days: the harvest blackened by smoke and fear, cruel punishment meted out to the innocent, and allegations of witchcraft. But something even darker is at the heart of Walter’s story, and he will be the only man left to tell it …
I am joining in with Laura at A Circle of Pine Trees for February’s – This Year in Books.