23 October 2018

A Discovering Diamonds review of A Slave of the Shadows by Naomi Finley

#1 of a series

Fictional Saga
American South

“In 1850 Charleston, South Carolina, brutality and cruelty simmer just under the genteel surface of Southern society. In an era where ladies are considered mere property, beautiful and headstrong Willow Hendricks' father has filled her life with turmoil, secrets, and lies. Her father rules her life until she finds a kindred spirit in spunky, outspoken Whitney Barry, a northerner from Boston. Together these Charleston belles are driven to take control of their own lives--and they are plunged into fear and chaos in their quest to fight for the rights of slaves. Against all odds, these feisty women fight to secure freedom and equality for those made powerless and persecuted by a supposedly superior race. Only when they've lost it all do they find a new beginning.”

In a male society, the women are nothing more than chattels for bedding and breeding. Willow is the only daughter of a stern father who believes women belong in the home (or the bedroom). Not the kitchen – that is the place for the slaves, people of an even lesser status than the women. Willow, however, has different views, she wants attitudes to change, presumably initiated by her recent education abroad. She makes friends with the house slaves, delighting in their company and conversation, but should her father find out… and she is friends also with Whitney, the daughter of the neighbouring plantation owner, also recently returned from New York and like Willow, abhorrent of the vile treatment of plantation slaves.

Fair enough that these two young ladies were at odds with their fathers and the culture they were born into because of the ‘outsider’ education, but I do wonder if their views were perhaps a little too twenty-first century, not those of the Carolinas in the 1800s? Slavery to us, now, was a dreadful, dreadful thing, but to the colonists of the American South in the pre-civil war years? Attitudes then were very different. I am not condoning those attitudes, but should historical fiction reflect the period being written about or today’s views? The slaving years of American (and elsewhere!) history are sometimes hard for many of us to accept (although for as many racism is still a despicable tendency) and the author seems to have done her research well, while the narrative, once the initial slight slowness is overcome, moves at a steady pace.

There were quite a few anachronisms as well which did not sit well with the period. A thing which, I hope, the author will take on board with the next volume of the saga – I suggest a good editor to pick these up.

I wasn’t sure about the changes of perspective from one character to another, nor from first to third person. Did the idea work? For me, not really, as each change jolted me out of the story, which is a shame as it is a good story, and one worth reading, particularly for readers who enjoy this period and the Carolinas connection. Overall this was an entertaining story, with another in the series to look forward to.

© Mary Chapple

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22 October 2018

A Discovering Diamonds review of The Tides Between by Elizabeth Jane Corbett

Family Drama /Nautical
Emigration to Australia

“In 1841, on the eve of her departure from London, Bridie's mother demands she forget her dead father and prepare for a sensible, adult life in Port Phillip. Desperate to save her childhood, fifteen-year-old Bridie is determined to smuggle a notebook filled with her father's fairy tales to the far side of the world.
When Rhys Bevan, a soft-voiced young storyteller and fellow traveller realises Bridie is hiding something, a magical friendship is born. But Rhys has his own secrets and the words written in Bridie’s notebook carry a dark double meaning.
As they inch towards their destination, Rhys's past returns to haunt him. Bridie grapples with the implications of her dad’s final message. The pair take refuge in fairy tales, little expecting the trouble it will cause.”

The plot of this expertly-written novel begins and then builds upon the matter of secrets and whether to trust or not. The Tides Between could be mistaken, at first, for a romance or a fantasy novel, but it is neither, it is a drama with supernatural elements added in for good measure.

With the narrative taking place aboard ship – the Lady Sophia bound for Port Philip near Melbourne – during the long passage from England to Australia the author has portrayed a very good depiction of life at sea for the emigrants, the long dull days when only story-telling can relieve the monotony of struggling to stay alive at steerage (low-cost) level. Fifteen-year-old Bridie, her step-father and pregnant mother are to meet others who also hope for a better, new, life on a far distant shore. Welsh Rhys and Sian also have their own hopes, fears and secrets and their friendship grows with Bridie when they realise their joint love of storytelling – especially for the old, Welsh tales.

I must confess that I struggled with the Welsh language passages and the myths, personally, I found the Welsh a little overdone – but for lovers (and speakers!) of Welsh and the old tales of Wales this would be a very readable novel. I believe the novel is aimed at Young Readers – would non-Welsh speaking thirteen to fifteen-year-olds be patient enough with the Welsh content I wonder?

Having said that, it was easy enough to skip the Welsh bits and enjoy the other parts of the story for its passion, delightful characters  and feel of authenticity.

© Ellen Hill

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20 October 2018

The weekend 20th October

No reviews over the weekend but...

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