August, September, October: Royal Fiction and American Epic

It’s been a while since I started my initial goal to read one book each month in 2012, and it’s been a while since I wrote about any of my recent reads. For the most part, I’ve read books that I’ve enjoyed in 2012—thanks to Kindle previews—but in August, I finally stumbled upon a dud.

I’m going to start there, and then get into the beauty that is Philippa Gregory and Margaret Mitchell.

The “dud” I began reading on a whim in August was called The Devil in Pew Number Seven. The title intrigued me, as did the synopsis, but somehow, I missed the memo that it was intended to be a chronological memoir, detailing the events of a young girl’s life as her preacher father was harassed by a sinister, rich, controlling church goer.

Boring, boring, boring. I do not like memoirs, the plot was entirely repetitive, and the ending? Trivial. Predictable. All kinds of one-second forgiveness after years of torment and the deaths of family members that I, being less than perfect, simply cannot relate to. I went ahead and looked up the family, who appeared on the Dr. Phil show, and while I appreciate what they went through, some of it just left a bad taste in my mouth.

So, let’s leave that aside and talk about the Good Reads for August, September and October.

In August, after the dud, I decided to go back to one of my favorite authors, Philippa Gregory. I selected The Lady of the Rivers because the beginning myth of Melusina interested me, and because the opening of the book contained dialogue between the main character and Joan of Arc, who has always fascinated me.PROS: Captivating plot, powerful protagonist, a beautiful love story, magic, and if you are like me and enjoy the drama and scandals that occurred in European monarchies, you’ll eat this up.

CONS: If you’re lacking in your knowledge of history, some of the terms, dates, and important people are lost.

FAVORITE QUOTE: “…great things can be achieved, that one should walk out filled with courage, even if one is a fool to hope.”

In September AND October (because it takes that freaking long), I decided to read one of the classics I’ve never read Gone With the Wind. I’ve never seen the movie and all I really knew was that it was an epic Civil War novel with a protagonist named Scarlett. So I went into it blindly, and loved almost every minutes.

PROS: The story just keeps you wanting more. It is breathtaking and transports you to a time of such controlled etiquette and propriety. Coming from a “Yankee” family, the Southern perspective is not one I knew much about nor did I sympathize with it. However, this book showed me the connection that many southerners had with their slaves, the good and the bad on both sides of the war lines, and the traditions of the South in the 1800s. Scarlett plays a very difficult role as the protagonist you don’t really want to like, but find yourself rooting for. The length and details created a lot of suspense for me, and I wasn’t often certain of what would happen next.

CONS: There are MANY words in this book I didn’t know. And I’m an English teacher. The vocabulary is on a higher level, and then when you add in time period and strictly Southern words, you have me using my Kindle to point and get definitions pretty often while I’m running on the treadmill. In addition, some people might be put off by the length or by the seriousness of the text. I could relate to the financial hardships, the deaths and other aspects of this novel but at points, it painted me to read. I know many who enjoy reading for pleasure and want to transport themselves into fairy tales and imagined lands where things are not as disastrous as they are in “real life.” This is not the book for those people.

EXTRAS: I will not spoil the ending, but I will say I am not a fan of cliffhangers and though this story pulled at my heart strings many times and I could relate to the difficulties the characters faced, I was not satisfied with the ending. When I finished, I was left with the thoughts of loved ones I know who have just never gotten it right. People who loved each other, but couldn’t figure out how to show it. Families who had to say goodbye to loved ones, leaving things unsaid. Parents who feel guilt for not raising their children differently. Children wishing they had stronger bonds with their parents. Regret. Torment. Broken-heartedness. Hardship. Misunderstandings. I hate misunderstandings and words left unsaid.`

FAVORITE QUOTES: “Some day I’m going to do and say everything I want to do and say, and if people don’t like it, I don’t care.”

“Sir,” she said, “you are no gentleman!”
“An apt observation,” he answered airily. “And you, Miss, are no lady.”

“Until you’ve lost your reputation, you never realize what a burden it was.”

“God did not frighten her anymore.”

“What beauty lay behind, it must remain there. No one could go forward with a load of aching memories.”

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