This month’s installment of speed reviewing is a little shorter than last months — I guess that means there are fewer books that disappointed me! If you missed last month’s post check it out here.
The Yonahlossee Riding Camp for Girls: A Novel
by Anton DiSclafani
Pub Date: June 4, 2013
Lately I’ve been loving historical novels — Above All Things, Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald, The Bookman’s Tale. When The Yonahlossee Riding Camp for Girls: A Novel showed up in my mailbox last week I knew I had to put it at the top of my pile. Luckily it didn’t disappoint.
Thea Alwell is the daughter of a wealthy heiress and a doctor. Born a fraternal twin, her life has been about carving out a place beside her brother. When a certain someone starts paying attention to only Thea, she becomes caught up in the attention. Rather than watch her perfect family unravel as a result of her actions, she’s sent to the Yonahlossee Riding Camp for Girls.
Built as a retreat for wealthy girls, the riding camp has become a haven for daughters of the rich during the Great Depression. The girls are given lessons in elocution, French, manners and, of course, riding. Though at first Thea feels like an outsider, she quickly comes into her own.
This book read a lot like a season of Downton Abbey. Thea reminds me a lot of Lady Mary – she’s headstrong and has a brief dalliance that threatens to ruin her life.
All-in-all I really liked this book and recommend it if you’re looking for something to read during your commute.
Since this book reads a lot like a coming of age novel, I thought I’d include some additional picks for YA readers:
Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book from the publisher. The opinions expressed above are my own.
Gilt by Katherine Longshore
Published May 15, 2012
Summary: Though I’veread a lot of historical fiction set during the Tudor dynasty, I had never read a book that chronicled Catherine Howard’s rise to the throne. In Gilt,we see the story from Kitty’s perspective. Kitty is a minor noble who becomes friends with Catherine Hoaward when they are both in service to a wealthy Howard relative. Catherine has lofty ambitions and it is clear from the start that Kitty will follow her every move. The novel traces their friendship from servanthood to the Tower. Along the way both indulge in romances that are dangerous, politically and psychologically.
Bechdel Test?: Surprisingly, I didn’t think so. Even though the two main characters, Kitty and Catherine, are strong women in their own right, together they talk only about plotting love affairs.
A solid historical intregue, Katherine Longshore’s novel was exactly what I thought it would be: fluffy goodness.There wasn’t much that the (informed) reader didn’t realize going in but it was fun to see the way that Longshore jazzed up the well-known story. Overall, I wish that the story had focused more on Kitty since she was the more interesting woman. I finished the book feeling as though there was a great deal more that Kitty could’ve done.
The Book of Madness and Cures by Regina O’Melveny
Published April 2012
Summary: Set in the late 16th century, this novel is the story of a young woman who has chosen a non-traditional path. Gabriella Mondini learned about medicine from her father and has been keeping up his practice in Venice since he disappeared many years ago. When the medical community in Venice tries to take away Gabriella’s right to practice medicine she sets out to find her father. The journey is arduous and, for the most part, unsuccessful. Along her trip Gabriella adds to her father’s book The Book of Madness and Cures.
Bechdel Test?: Absolutely passes. The main character is female and she has many discussions with others about her profession, medicine.
Weirdest part?: Spoiler Alert! During Gabriella’s journey she meets and falls in love with several men. One of the men ends up dead and on the dissection table in the next city she visits.
I wanted to love this book so much more than I actually did. While I appreciate the attempt to cross traditional gender boundaries, it was more than a little annoying that Dr. Mondini kept cross-dressing to be admitted to the various libraries. She asserts agency in the face of her mother’s traditional views and tries desperately to make her own way but is ultimately unsuccessful and ends up with a husband & baby. Maybe I was asking too much but I wanted Gabriella Mondini to gain her entrance to the Venetian Doctors’ Guild of her own accord, not because of her new husband’s presence.