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Topic: 2009 H/F - #2 - Your Region

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Subject: 2009 H/F - #2 - Your Region
Date Posted: 1/13/2009 8:39 AM ET
Member Since: 10/29/2005
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2. Read a book of Historical Fiction set in your region.

Date Posted: 1/27/2009 9:46 AM ET
Member Since: 5/3/2008
Posts: 10,300
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Riders of the Purple Sage by Zane Grey - finished on 1/26/2009

I really struggled to get through this book. The plot is quite complex - several threads running through it. My biggest issue was the dialogue and in doing some research, I find that Grey was not noted for great dialogue. His description of the landscape in Southern Utah is beautiful and you can almost feel that you are there. The main character is a woman - Jane Withersteen - and I would say that for that era and for that religion (Mormon) she was quite a radical. I, personally, am not a Mormon, but Grey's treatment/description of the Mormons indicates that he had no love of them.

In 1871, in Southern Utah,Jane has inherited her father's ranch, which has made her a wealthy woman. She is a person who believes in the golden rule, religion or no religion. She befriends Gentiles (Mormon-speak for any non-Mormon) and Mormons alike - helping out as much as she can. This infuriates the Mormon bishop and elders and they end up out to ruin her. One thing that I believe this book depicted quite frankly was the treatment of women by Mormon men at that time (and in some cases, even the present). Sure made me glad I didn't live in Utah THEN!

One thing that I found interesting in the foreword of this book was that many books published at this time (circa 1912) were highly edited and censored to avoid antagonizing certain groups. I never read the original version and this one (that I read) was uncensored, so I am left to wonder how much this book was changed originally.



Last Edited on: 1/27/09 10:16 AM ET - Total times edited: 1
Date Posted: 1/29/2009 3:04 PM ET
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I've heard of that book but I had no idea it was about a Mormon woman. So would you recommend it, despite the bad dialogue?

Date Posted: 1/29/2009 5:23 PM ET
Member Since: 10/29/2005
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Thanks for the review, Jeanne. I've always felt I should try a Zane book simply because he is an icon of American Westerns, but with your good review, maybe I don't have to read one after all, lol.

The bit about censoring is very interesting. Do you mean it was written to be more politically correct? Or, written to avoid offense to different religions?

Date Posted: 2/1/2009 8:26 AM ET
Member Since: 5/3/2008
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Apparently, books were censored to be more politically correct and also to spare the sensitivities ( whether they be religious, sexual , etc).

Janelle - a lot of people love this book. I would recommend it from the standpoint of history. This book apparently marked the beginning of the popularity of Western fiction. As I mentioned in another thread, I'm not a fan of romance (and there is plenty of it in here). Also, I find Jane's expectations of people (especially Lassiter) to be rather far-fetched. He is referred to as "the Mormon killer" and he is definitely a gunman. She wants him to "put away his guns" to keep him from killing her people ( some of whom are evil personified). This is 1871 in the West! Not even the Mormons put away their guns!  I have to admit that there were moments I found myself saying "oh for Pete's sake". This book does show that the Mormons weren't always the persecuted - sometimes they were the persecutors

Let's just say that I won't read it again because I found it so frustrating in parts ( I must be running short on patience or I'm just too practical or maybe I need hormones!)

Date Posted: 2/1/2009 4:11 PM ET
Member Since: 8/30/2007
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I must be running short on patience or I'm just too practical or maybe I need hormones!

Yep, I've got the same problem. I'm thinking a tranquilizer IV drip is what I need.

Date Posted: 2/1/2009 7:46 PM ET
Member Since: 5/3/2008
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That's it, Janelle! Next visit to the doc - I'm gonna tell him!

Subject: Charleston, SC
Date Posted: 2/27/2009 10:42 PM ET
Member Since: 2/4/2009
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Do you know any good HF books about Charleston, SC?

Date Posted: 5/10/2009 6:11 PM ET
Member Since: 5/27/2005
Posts: 2,394
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Recently I happened across a review of a book set in the Winding Stair Mountains of Eastern Oklahoma, and decided it might be a good choice for a book set in my region.

 Winding Stair, Douglas C. Jones.      This book is set in Eastern Oklahoma in 1890, near the Ft. Smith court of Isaac Parker, the so-called hanging judge.  Although I live in Western Oklahoma, I have visited this area, and anything and everything about the Indian culture is pertinent to Oklahoma's culture.  A good Western novel, tracking a crew of murderers and bringing them back to justice.  At the time of this novel that area of Eastern Oklahoma was the home of the "Nations" - the areas held by the Five Civilized Tribes, each of which maintained their own law enforcement agencies, but depended on assistance from the U.S. Marshalls out of Ft. Smith for all crimes involving a white person.  I enjoyed the novel and recommend it to those who enjoy a good Western.

Linda

and BTW, Samantha, if you haven't yet found a good HF book about Charleston, I can recommend Celia Garth by Gwen Bristow.  I read it a few days ago and really liked it - set in Charleston during the bombardment, siege, and occupation by the British during the Revolutionary War.



Last Edited on: 5/10/09 6:14 PM ET - Total times edited: 1
Date Posted: 5/20/2009 1:03 PM ET
Member Since: 1/12/2008
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I've just begun my choice for my regional challenge book. I live in Northwest Charlotte, NC, at the foot of the mountains, and I found an interesting book called Serena written by a lit professor at Western Carolina U, which is up in the Asheville mountain area of NC, in the Appalachians--maybe an hour and change from my house.  The book was hard to get, had to pay almost full price and purchase it outright, but it's really a good read. It's about the logging industry in 1929 and the asencion to power of an ambitious couple....I'll let y'all know when I finish it but it might just be a good overal HF read set in an unusual era--a la F. Scott Fitzgerald's time.

ETA: 5.28.09   So I finished Serena late last night, and read late because I couldn't put it down. Wow. I loved it, highly recommend it. Without giving up the plot, it would have qualified easily for the "Murder in the Title" entrant!   If anyone wants it privately before I post it, PM me before this weekend, I won't get around to posting it before then.



Last Edited on: 5/28/09 3:53 PM ET - Total times edited: 1
Date Posted: 6/12/2009 9:39 PM ET
Member Since: 6/24/2006
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Samantha, I'm looking for South Carolina stuff too. I decided to go online and check the local libraries stash of Carolina lit. Only problem was I couldn't sort by historical fiction and South Carolina. I've yet to go to the library and check on the list yet, but if I find any Charleston stuff I'll let you know.

Date Posted: 6/13/2009 10:45 AM ET
Member Since: 10/29/2005
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Colleen, I just pm'ed you about Serena. I have heard great things about that book; glad to hear you liked it too.

Date Posted: 6/21/2009 3:16 PM ET
Member Since: 5/18/2009
Posts: 388
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I'm originally from Charleston, SC and I can't even think of a single title set there! lol

Any recs for the Portsmouth/Norfolk/Hampton Roads area of Virginia (where I'm currently living)? If I don't find anything, I might start looking for a Charleston novel as well.

Date Posted: 6/21/2009 3:37 PM ET
Member Since: 5/27/2005
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Celia Garth by Gwen Bristow is set in Charleston at the time of the British occupation of that city during the Revolutionary War.  It's a good novel, recently reprinted.  I recommend it.

Linda

Date Posted: 6/21/2009 8:54 PM ET
Member Since: 5/18/2009
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Thanks, Linda! Will read some reviews on it tonight!

Kat (polbio) -
Date Posted: 6/24/2009 9:41 AM ET
Member Since: 10/10/2008
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Ok, I have a question. When we picked the books, I was lving in Maine. We had moved there from PA in Nov/Dec so the book I chose is set in New England. However, DH was layed off and we moved back to PA in March. DH found work in WV and we are going to be moving there in the next month or so.

Sooo... do I still read the book for the region I lived in back in January or do I read one from PA or WV, depending on where i live when I read it?

Date Posted: 6/25/2009 7:08 PM ET
Member Since: 6/26/2008
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 I read The Houseguest by Agnes Rossi for this challenge.  I live in Northern NJ and probably could have found a historical fiction about NYC easily and counted it since it is pretty close to where I live, but I really wanted to find something about New Jersey.  While searching through PBS, I found this book, set in New Jersey in the 1930s.  Not only that, but it's about Paterson, NJ which is a city next to the town I live in.  Talk about getting as close as possible!  My own town is mentioned in the book in a list of nearby towns two of the characters decide to visit for dinner in order to get out of the city, so that was exciting to see my town in the book, even if it was only a brief mention.  I also recognized the names of certain landmarks which kept me connected to the book.

Anyway, the story itself is about Edward Devlin, a recently widowed man who abandons his 6 year old daughter, Maura, in Ireland with his two sisters, and takes the first boat possible back to America (where he and his wife had lived happily years earlier before returning to Ireland so she could die there).  He plans to stay in NYC, but finds it too difficult and decides to check out the city of Paterson, NJ on a hunch that maybe he could get a job through an old acquaintance, John Fitzgibbon or Fitz,  who is a wealthy mill owner.   Not only does Fitz get him a job, but he offers Edward a place in his home for as long as he needs to get back on his feet.  Sylvia, Fitz's wife, is happy for the company as she and Fitz are mainly together for appearances now.  The story then follows the growing relationship between Sylvia & Edward, the waning relationship of Sylvia & Fitz, Maura's struggles at an Irish boarding school, and Edward's growth as a person. 

Although this isn't as "historical" as other historical fiction stories, I'm still going to count it because there are so many references to Depression era events, key events in Irish history in the 1930s and earlier that shape Edward's life, etc.  For me, it was interesting to read about Depression-era Paterson as it was still thriving to a degree despite the economic struggles.  My parents and other relatives always mention how Paterson was once the "Silk Capital of the World" and even as late as the early 1960s, was still the place to go for shopping, dining, and where they used to hang out with their friends.  Some relatives of my grandparents’ generation (my step-grandma, my husband's grandpa, etc) lived there back in the day as well.  However, when I was growing up it was where we were warned not to go, crime is high, nothing was really there if you weren't looking for trouble, etc...   Other than a few major stores like Home Depot or Lowe's located along the highway on the outskirts of the city, I can't say that I've actually ever been there and it's only a two or three minute drive across the river for me.  It's so hard for me to image the Paterson in this book, the Paterson my parents and grandparents knew, and the Paterson I'm familiar with as being the same place.  The city of Paterson is essentially a character itself in this book (Edward reflects on this numerous times throughout the story) and it gave me a new appreciation for the city that is so close to where I live, but so far removed from what I'm familiar with (after reading the book I looked up some stuff about Paterson and learned that it's the second most densely populated city in the USA, with NYC being the only one that's more densely populated, I didn't know that)!  It gave me a new appreciation for this particular city.

Outside of this particular challenge, this was still a good story, even if you aren't from the Northern NJ area.  It really gets into the psychological workings of the characters as they try to figure out their motives for doing things.  One criticism I have of the book is that Maura, Edward's daughter, is rarely focused on.  She is central to the first chapter as it is told mainly from her point-of-view, and she has chapters sprinkled throughout, but her chapters are limited to a page or two whereas the other chapters are much longer.  I found her character the most interesting, but after her initial introduction, she isn't really focused on much.

 

Date Posted: 9/21/2009 3:15 PM ET
Member Since: 7/21/2008
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I read City of Light by Lauren Belfer for this challenge.  It's set in Buffalo, NY in the late 1800's and is about the politics that went behind generation of electricity using Niagara Falls.  I live in Syracuse, NY now (about 2 hours from Buffalo), but I went to college in Buffalo and worked there for about 2 years after, so I was very familiar with the areas that were mentioned and the local historical figures that were mentioned in the book.  I really enjoyed the author's take on these people that are considered such heroes in Buffalo history - who knew their lives could have been so scandalous?  I also found it a bit sad to see how Buffalo was such an important city back then, now knowing how much it has declined with the changes in industry.

I think Linda or Kelly recommended this one to me, and I'm glad I read it - thanks!

Date Posted: 9/21/2009 4:33 PM ET
Member Since: 3/11/2008
Posts: 924
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I read The Strange Files of Fremont Jones by Dianne Day. It's a cozy historical mystery set in San Francisco in 1906. I don't life in San Francisco, but I could NOT find any HF based on the city where I live. :( So, this will have to do--HF set in the state I live in.

Anyway, I rather enjoyed the book. I love cozies, especially if they're set in the past. Fremont Jones is rather modern for your typical woman in 1906--a young woman who basically runs away from home and sets up her own business as a typist. She ends up meeting a number of interesting characters, including lawyers, gothic novelists, and Chinese tong leaders. I didn't quite understand her negative reaction to her neighbor, who she thought might be a spy, but I guess it kind of helped move the story along. I was surprisingly engaged by the gothic aspect of the book--makes me want to read some Poe for old time's sake. The one thing I wasn't expecting, and didn't like I think partly because I wasn't expecting it, was when Fremont slept with her love interest. Thankfully it was a short episode and I liked the rest of the story enough that I'll give the second book in the series a try.

And with that book, I've completed the challenge!



Last Edited on: 9/23/09 1:16 PM ET - Total times edited: 1
Date Posted: 10/7/2009 12:40 PM ET
Member Since: 6/5/2007
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I just finished The Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford. It is set in Seattle (which is near me) at the time of the Japanese Internment during World War II, and flashes forward to the mid 1980s.  I liked it a lot, the storyline is good. There were some editing mistakes that made me a little untrusting of this history in it, but that is a minor quibble.

I'd highly recommend it, and I thank the HF member who suggested I look into it for my region.

With this, I am finished with the Challenge with the exception of the Bonus book, which I am hoping to get to soon.

Date Posted: 10/7/2009 2:11 PM ET
Member Since: 5/3/2008
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Oh Mimi, I envy you - just thinking of the bonus book is giving me the heebie-jeebies. I'm trying to read books that are on other's WLs and I slow down on the challenge books. Good for you to get to this point!

Date Posted: 10/7/2009 3:25 PM ET
Member Since: 7/15/2008
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Katy, there's Calico Palace by Gwen Bristow. Starts in San Fran before the gold rush and goes to the gold camps and then back again to the city. Out of print, but be reissued in the next couple of months. There's also The Proud Breed by Celeste De Blasis.

Date Posted: 10/7/2009 3:59 PM ET
Member Since: 6/5/2007
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Thank you, Jeanne. I am not the first, by far, to finish and others have completed the bonus one too! They deserve a badge.

Date Posted: 10/7/2009 4:27 PM ET
Member Since: 5/3/2008
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I know, Mimi, and I agree about those who have finished this challenge! I latched onto your  post because I just finished one of my challenge books (one more and then the bonus book) and was wondering "how do I get all this reading in?" We moved to Tucson in the last few months and there seems to be so much to do. Now DH is around ALL OF THE TIME and that appears to cutting into my reading.Well, I will do what I can.:)

Date Posted: 10/7/2009 6:14 PM ET
Member Since: 6/5/2007
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I hear you! Grin!

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