The boys in the boat will row their way into your heart. This book is a colossal hit. It took place in the l930’s at the time of the Great Depression, the terrible droughts in the U.S., and the Olympics in l936 in Germany. The reader follows the University of Washington boys as they compete for a seat in a boat. Author Daniel Brown has gone to so much research and interview lengths that the story feels as if it is happening as you read along. The image of Joe, one of the tough kids paying their way through college, is unforgettable as you jackhammer along with him as he hangs from rocks in the Grand Coulee making the dam and working at this unbelievable task eight hours a day paying him 75 cents an hour, or you go with him to row for the gold on the grounds of the Olympics which Hitler had built BY HAND, with no mechanical equipment.
I read Luminaries, a novel set in l866 in New Zealand, because it was on a list of the top historical fiction. When I picked up this book by Eleanor Catton, the librarian said, “I wish you better luck with this than I had (the books weighs at least ten pounds) and I thought she meant the heft of the thing.
I craved to learn about the success and the hardships of the miners. What I found instead was a detective story about a dozen people who are connected in some way with the mining industry, including a sea captain. It were as if I were reading a Sherlock Holmes novel when he gathers all the major parties together to unweave and tie up the threads. In this case, a few deaths and a box of women’s fashions that travels back and forth across the ocean. The book is a good example of a writer telling instead of showing a story.
Death Comes to the Archbishop, also on the top historical fiction list, was a grand read about the remote territory that Catholic priests cover when Arizona and New Mexico are annexed to the U.S. They travel phenomenal ways across uncharted land. The Archbishop is a lovable man who makes good decisions appropriate to the raw life of the time. He overlooks priests who have families but they support the church and the people with passion. A fun adventure for a hot summer day.
A WWII story, Miracle at St. Anna, by James McBride, which also became a movie, tells the story of four black soldiers. They are in Italy and adrift from the main force because one of them has saved a little boy who doesn’t speak. They find themselves in an Italian village where they learn about the Black Butterfly, a partisan leader, whose men have killed two SS men. In retaliation, over 300 villagers have been rounded up and killed.
The shameful way Blacks were treated both in the service and at home is shown with compassion. Lots of thrills and tension as the story builds.
The author, however, leaves out the fact that Blacks and Japanese soldiers are the troops left behind to keep the Germans from leaving the mountains and going back to fight in Germany. White troops have been shipped to England to prepare for the coming invasion in France.
I’m currently in the middle of The Seventh Gate, a story about a teenager in WWII in Berlin. After that will be the Far Pavilions (another huge novel with small type) and the Egyptian, a book that was on the bestseller list for over forty years.