Wednesday, April 27, 2011

TLC Blog Tour-The Rebellion of Jane Clarke, by Sally Gunning

by Sally Gunning
Harper Paperbacks (Reprint April 26, 2011)
ISBN 9780061782152
304 pages
Historical Fiction

 Book Description from Harper Collins 

"On the eve of the Revolutionary War, a young woman is caught between tradition and independence, family and conscience, loyalty and love, in this spellbinding novel from the author of The Widow's War and Bound
Jane Clarke leads a simple yet rich life in the small village of Satucket on Cape Cod. The vibrant scent of the ocean breeze, the stark beauty of the dunes, the stillness of the millpond are among the daily joys she treasures. Her days are full attending to her father's needs, minding her younger siblings, working with the local midwife. But at twenty-two, Jane knows things will change. Someday, perhaps soon, she will be expected to move out of her father's home and start a household of her own.
Yet some things—including the bitter feud between her father and a fellow miller named Winslow—appear likely to remain the same. When the dispute erupts into a shocking act of violence, Jane's lifelong trust in her father is shaken. Adding to her unease is Phinnie Paine, the young man Jane's father has picked out as son-in-law as well as business partner. When Jane defies her father and refuses to accept Phinnie's marriage proposal, she is sent away to Boston to make her living as she can.
Arriving in this strange, bustling city awash with red coats and rebellious fervor, Jane plunges into new conflicts and carries with her old ones she'd hoped to leave behind. Father against daughter, Clarke against Winslow, loyalist against rebel, command against free will—the battles are complicated when her growing attachment to her frail aunt, her friendship with the bookseller Henry Knox, and the unexpected kindness of the British soldiers pit her against the townspeople who taunt them and her own beloved brother, Nate, a law clerk working for John Adams.
But when Jane witnesses British soldiers killing five colonists on a cold March evening in 1770, an event now dubbed "the Boston Massacre," she must question seeming truths and face one of the most difficult choices of her life, alone except for the two people who continue to stand by her—her grandparents Lyddie and Eben Freeman."~Harper Collins

Sally Gunning

My Review

Anyone who has read The Widow’s War and Bound will be immediately drawn into the story of Jane Clarke.  Gunning once again presents a strong women in a historical fiction setting whose beliefs and actions run contrary to the accepted norms of the time period and culture.  Jane is a recalcitrant daughter, strong willed and unable to submit to the future married life her father has planned for her.  As a consequence she is banished from the comfort and security of her home in Satucket, Cape Cod. Jane travels to Boston to live with her aunt. She is determined to maintain her independence and form a life based on her convictions, at all costs.

Sally Gunning weaves a quick moving story that is entertaining as it meanders among the lives of famous statesmen of the day. Jane Clarke becomes a witness to The Boston Massacre and replays the events over and over to try and lift the clouds of doubt. When Jane is called to testify at the trial of the accused, she is faced with her own trial. The author puts her character to the test as she is faced with a difficult and ethical decision. The Rebellion of Jane Clarke becomes her internal struggle of right and wrong as much as her outward struggle for independence.  Without detailing too much of the story, no spoilers here....what ensues is a highly visible political debate with passionate opinions on either side of the trial bench.

Sally Gunning seeks out interesting snippets of history and puts together a well blended cast to produce an enhanced drama that will engage readers of historical fiction. Her author notes add clarity to the historical events in her book.  The Rebellion of Jane Clarke offers an ethics lesson that is timeless with relevance today.  The author’s image and vision of Jane, an obstreperous heroine is memorable and no doubt modern women will cheer her strong will.     


© [Wisteria Leigh] and [Bookworm's Dinner], [2008-2011].

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Contest Reminder: Caleb's Crossing by Geraldine Brooks

Book Giveaway:
Just a reminder that the contest for a copy of Geraldine Brooks new book Caleb's Crossing ends in a few days. Hurry for your chance to read Ms. Brooks latest book....see the trailer below.

Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to [Wisteria Leigh] and [Bookworm's Dinner] with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.
© [Wisteria Leigh] and [Bookworm's Dinner], [2008-2011].

Monday, April 18, 2011

Pox, An American History, by Michael Willrich-Blog Tour

POX, An American History
Michael Willrich
The Penguin Press, March 31, 2011
400pp. HC

Summary from The Penguin Press (Cover Jacket)

The untold story of how America's Progressive-era war on smallpox sparked one of the great civil liberties battles of the twentieth century. 
At the turn of the last century, a powerful smallpox epidemic swept the United States from coast to coast. The age-old disease spread swiftly through an increasingly interconnected American landscape: from southern tobacco plantations to the dense immigrant neighborhoods of northern cities to far-flung villages on the edges of the nascent American empire. In Pox, award-winning historian Michael Willrich offers a gripping chronicle of how the nation's continentwide fight against smallpox launched one of the most important civil liberties struggles of the twentieth century.

At the dawn of the activist Progressive era and during a moment of great optimism about modern medicine, the government responded to the deadly epidemic by calling for universal compulsory vaccination. To enforce the law, public health authorities relied on quarantines, pesthouses, and "virus squads"-corps of doctors and club-wielding police. Though these measures eventually contained the disease, they also sparked a wave of popular resistance among Americans who perceived them as a threat to their health and to their rights.

At the time, anti-vaccinationists were often dismissed as misguided cranks, but Willrich argues that they belonged to a wider legacy of American dissent that attended the rise of an increasingly powerful government. While a well-organized anti-vaccination movement sprang up during these years, many Americans resisted in subtler ways-by concealing sick family members or forging immunization certificates.
Pox introduces us to memorable characters on both sides of the debate, from Henning Jacobson, a Swedish Lutheran minister whose battle against vaccination went all the way to the Supreme Court, to C. P. Wertenbaker, a federal surgeon who saw himself as a medical missionary combating a deadly-and preventable-disease.

As Willrich suggests, many of the questions first raised by the Progressive-era antivaccination movement are still with us: How far should the government go to protect us from peril? What happens when the interests of public health collide with religious beliefs and personal conscience? In
Pox, Willrich delivers a riveting tale about the clash of modern medicine, civil liberties, and government power at the turn of the last century that resonates powerfully today.-The Penguin Press

My Review

Cover to cover, POX will command your attention with an unyielding grip.  Who would think a history about the smallpox scourge would be so engaging, fascinating in fact?

Yet with his extensive research and well crafted narrative Willrich has accomplished that and more. When you read his book, the smallpox epidemic at the turn of the twentieth century is the focus. However, his look back prior to 1900, and then forward in time provides an important timeline and perspective. It is always interesting as a historian, to view the past with twenty-first century eyes. Fortunately, Willrich provides objectivity when writing of the past while offering opportunities to reflect and make connections to current issues facing our global community.

During the Progressive Era, social reformers were crusaders of change.  Change is not always popular and Willrich points out those wishing to change current practice had their opposition. Vaccination proponents, favoring what was in their view necessary for the common good, argued with the opponents, the antivaccinationists who believed in a person’s individual rights.

POX provides a fluid chronicle of the smallpox virus and the development of the weapon that would ultimately obliterate it’s existence around the world.  The methods state governments implemented to enforce vaccination was not always equitable.  It is alarming to read, although it should not be a surprise that our country’s marginalized population suffered most. It was a common belief that this was a  African Americans, recent immigrants, and the poor were systematically singled out and physically forced to submit to vaccination and/or quarantined within their homes or taken to pesthouses for weeks. Race, income, religion and political difference created a clear line of injustice and inequity.

POX will encourage deep reflection and inspire the curious.  Michael Willrich has written a spectacular historical narrative, an outstanding read. POX has been added to my best picks for 2011.

Michael Willrich

"Michael Willrich is the author of City of Courts, which won the John H. Dunning Prize awarded by the American Historical Association for the best book on any aspect of U.S. history, and the William Nelson Cromwell Prize awarded by the American Society for Legal History. Currently an associate professor of history at Brandeis University, he worked for several years as a journalist in Washington, D.C., writing for The Washington Monthly, City Paper, The New Republic, and other magazines."  The Penguin Press, book jacket. 

Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to [Wisteria Leigh] and [Bookworm's Dinner] with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.
© [Wisteria Leigh] and [Bookworm's Dinner], [2008-2011].