Wednesday, April 21, 2010

J is for James

The Book is Night Women by Marlon James is one of the best books I've read in a long time.  I read it for review for Historical Novels Review awhile back.  Below is the review:

The Book of Night Women is a beautifully written, sweeping tale of Jamaican slavery set in the early 19th century. The story centers on Lilith, a slave born on the Montpelier Estate, a large sugar plantation, where life is ruled by danger and fear. Lilith comes of age and kills a black slave driver who attempts to rape her. This event marks Lilith from the other slaves who begin to both fear and revere her at the same time for they sense that she possess a dark power hidden within her. A group of closely knit women, who call themselves the Night Women, keep their eye on Lilith and bring her into their secret circle. At their meetings, Lilith learns the group is plotting a slave revolt of massive proportion that involves several plantations. She hesitates to participate, but the Night Women see her as a force that could really help their cause, and Lilith is torn between her feelings.

James portrays his dynamic and flawed characters in a complex, stratified society where many boundaries, some known and some unspoken, exist among slaves and their masters as well as among the slaves themselves. The authentic voice of the narrator, who remains a mystery until the end of the novel, moves the story along at a brisk pace. Strong language abounds, and the entire novel is written in a slave dialect which adds to the story, making it a realistic, engaging read. James portrays the violence as it really was, absolutely horrific, and does not hold back. One of the most satisfying parts of the novel is James’s exploration of the power of love to transform a person and change their thinking. This tale of freedom, hope, survival, and unlikely love is unique and will continue to make readers think. Marlon James is an extremely gifted writer whose next book I eagerly anticipate.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

I is for I, Elizabeth

I didn't have a book that I've already read for the letter "I," so I am instead posting about a book that I want to read.  I, Elizabeth by Rosalind Miles has been sitting on my bookshelf for a good two years I'd say.  I've read other books by Miles and have loved them.  For some reason, I just haven't gotten around to reading this one.  I know once I start it, I'll love it.
Here's a summary from Booklist:
Historian Miles' novel is in the form of a memoir that Elizabeth I is writing near the end of her long and amazing life. Through Elizabeth's eyes, the reader sees the life-and-death court intrigues, the religious conflicts, and the prerogatives as well as the high price of power. In addition to being faithful to historical fact, Miles presents a wealth of colorful detail. The personalitiesElizabeth's father, Henry VIII, her sister, Bloody Mary, her cousin, Mary Queen of Scots, and the restare vividly portrayed, as are the sights, sounds, and smells of the Tudor era. Miles also interprets the inner woman, from the frightened girl called away from the security of her exile at Hatfield to present herself at court, to the mature queen: scholarly, vain, shrewd, deeply attuned to such things as the language of dress, capable of great passion, but learning never to let her passions rule. Miles weaves Elizabeth's passions throughout, as various courtiers attempt to marry her off, and the men she loves betray her, prove inadequate, or must be sacrificed for the political good. Miles answers in her own way the question of whether the Virgin Queen was really a virgin. Despite its length, this convincing novel never falters. Mary Ellen Quinn