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The Paris Wife

This is the heartbreaking story of Ernest Hemingway’s doomed marriage to Elizabeth Hadley Richardson, as told from Hadley’s perspective. Though Hadley is apprehensive about marrying the younger Hemingway, she is in love and caught up in the exciting life she is sure she will have with him. Hemingway is still unknown as an author and is struggling to write the great novel that will finally get him recognized. Hadley gives the emotional support that Hemingway needs when facing criticism and rejection. This was “the lost generation” however, and Hemingway’s morals and values left much to be desired. While Hadley was the supportive, loving wife and mother, Hemingway was a cad. Apparently he realized his mistake several years later. In Hemingway’s memoir “A Moveable Feast”, regarding Hadley he wrote “I wished I had died before I loved anyone but her.”

This is a moving, wonderfully written novel that sweeps you up and doesn’t let go until the very end. Though many readers will already know how the story turns out (considering Hadley is the first of Ernest’s four wives), Hadley’s story is one of love and resilience. With so many literary figures thrown in, this story has a perfect balance of history and romance.

October 24, 2010 Posted by | Fiction, Historical Fiction | , , , , | Leave a comment

West of Here

In his newest novel, West of Here, Jonathan Evison blends past and present to create a mythical story filled with love, adventure and family dysfunction. Set in the fictional town of Port Bonita, Washington, the novel alternates between the late 1880’s when the town is striving to become a destination in the west to rival Seattle, and 2006, as Port Bonita readies itself to shed its past and move on to an uncertain future.

Evison has populated both eras with wonderfully developed characters. In the 1880’s, James Mather is an adventurer seeking to conquer the rest of the Washington Territory on the eve of its statehood. Ethan Thornburgh is a businessman determined to harness the power of the Elwha River by building a dam to bring electricity, people, and prestige to Port Bonita. The Klallam Indians have seen their traditions vanish and are struggling to co-exist with the settlers. In 2006 the descendants of these settlers are still contending with the consequences of decisions made by their forefathers. As Port Bonita makes plans to tear down the dam, the town must begin to reinvent itself. It is the perfect time for some of its residents to do the same.

I have to admit that it took a few chapters to draw me into this story. Looking back, I have no idea why because once I was in, I loved it. There is a great sense of place in this novel; I was transported back more than 100 years by Evison’s rich detail of the culture and geography of the Northern Pacific. The characters are larger than life while remaining true to life. My personal favorite is Dave Krigstadt who, in 2006, is employed by the High Tide salmon processing plant. Struggling with garnering respect or even consideration from those around him, Krig may be the one to finally break free of his family’s legacy of indifference from others.

September 19, 2010 Posted by | Fiction, Historical Fiction | , | Leave a comment

The Gendarme

Emmett Conn is 92 years old. Recently widowed and suffering from a brain tumor, he is plagued with headaches and bad dreams. The dreams come to him like a movie being played out in his mind, scene by scene. They begin to feel more like memories than dreams, but a head injury suffered during WWI left Emmett with very little memory of the war or his life before it. In these dreams Emmett is a Turkish gendarme, a position that one would hold before becoming a soldier. He is known as Ahmet Khan, the name he had before entering the United States. His assignment as a gendarme is to lead a group of Armenian deportees from their homes in Turkey to a camp in Syria. He leads this caravan of sick and dying men, women, and children for several weeks. Most of these deportees, considered a security threat by the Turkish government, die along the way. Though he wishes that it were not true, Emmett soon accepts that these are memories of his past; a past in which he played a terrible role in an almost forgotten genocide. It is also a past of forbidden love and the search for redemption.

This story alternates between Emmett’s life as it was, slowly revealed to him in his dreams, and his life as it is now. A life filled with doctors’ visits, his daughters growing concern for his physical and mental health, and the awful memories that begin to reveal themselves. It is a story of the horrors of war and the dangers of prejudice. It is also a story of forgiveness-of yourself and those who cause you harm. This is a remarkable novel.

August 1, 2010 Posted by | Fiction, Historical Fiction | | Leave a comment