So Valentine’s Day wasn’t so bad this year after all. I got back from the gym that night to discover a package from Random House waiting for me. To say I was excited is that biggest understatement of the year. I actually put off reading it till Friday night. You know me I wouldn’t have gone to bed Thursday night, and I had court the next morning. So now the review….
Most of you know Stephanie Barron as the author of the Jane Austen Mysteries. However, she has departed from tradition and written a stand alone suspense novel about Queen Victoria. I know all the history buffs are probably connecting the dots between the title and the character. The book is an exploration into the
Here is a picture of the package minus identifying info.
speculation and innuendo historians have had about Queen Victoria for some time.
The book opens in 1861 at Windsor castle. Patrick Fitzgerald, the barrister who defended Mr. Oxford (the man responsible for the first assassination attempt on Victoria), has been summoned to the castle accompanied by his ward, Dr. Georgina Armistead. The Queen, half mad with anguish due to Prince Albert’s typhoid, wants Fitzgerald to sign a paper stating that the investigation he as part of his defense of Oxford was a fabrication of is “Irish” mind. Fitzgerald refuses. Prince Albert dies a few minutes after Fitzgerald quits the castle. Several hours later, Fitzgerald and Armistead are violently attacked in the Queen’s coach. Fitzgerald wonders was this a failed assassination attempt on the Queen…
I need to find the rest of this review.
So if you can’t join ‘em, hate ‘em right!!! I’m just joking, sort of. Since I don’t have a Valentine this year, I’ve decided to review a book with a character for those who are feeling a little less than loved today.
This play is actually set up as a play within a play. In the first scene we see a Lord bringing a drunk back to his home for a joke. He has the man dressed up and all of his servants treating him as a noble. The story the Lord has concocted is that this man has been out of his wits for 7 years. Once the man wakes up and discovers his “position” a group of actors come in and put on a play…
So Baptista has two daughters, Katherine and Bianca. Kate is known for her sharp tongue while Bianca is known for being sweet and is therefore the more desired of the two sisters. Baptista has decided that no one can marry Bianca until Kate is married off first. Until that point in time, Bianca must have Masters to teach her all the accomplishments. Of course, Bianca’s many suitors come up with creative ways to court her- they provide the “Masters.” Many of them have their servants pretend to be “them” so that they can pretend to be Bianca’s teacher while secretly wooing her. Mean while, one Petruccio comes to town, and after hearing of Kate’s infamous temper decides she is the woman for him. As you can imagine the other men are grateful for their “savior.” He woos Kate by out shrewing her. As typical of Shakespeare there are switches in identity, borrowing identities, and in general madcap fun!!!!
Through this process we do see glimpses of Kate’s character. It begs the interesting question of whether Kate is really cursed. Kate seems like a woman a head of her time. She is brutally honest and sees the hypocrisy of the women of that day. Early in the story we see Kate tying her sister up and demanding to know which man her sister truly likes. Baptista rescues Bianca and reproaches Kate. But why does Kate tie up her sister. Is it due to jealousy, or does she suspect her sister is a coquette? Then Kate meets Petruccio. Despite her name calling and temper towards him, we see that on her wedding day, Kate is actually distraught by the thought that she is being left at the altar.
Then we have the “taming.” Ok this was a lot more violent than I remembered reading this as a child . I have to wonder who tamed who? I mean maybe if the “taming” took like 6 months I’d say that Kate was tamed. But a week? I don’t know, I think Miss Kate learned to out play her husband. I mean the transformation, is kind of night and day. One day she’s hating what Petruccio is doing; and acting shrewish, then the very next day, she’s successfully playing the game. Methinks it would have been interesting to see a continuation of this story in five years.
I think what makes Kate such an interesting character study is the change we see in her sister. Bianca means white in Italian. The connotation is Innocence. Despite her lily white appearance, she acts less than a proper lady. We see her shamelessly flirting with her “masters.” In fact she seems to be leading on three different men. Then she elopes with Lucentino (I hope I spelled that right). Then there is the bawdy humor in which she engages at her own marriage reception. Some how Kate’s breaking the lute over the teacher’s head, pales in comparison to Bianca’s impropriety.
Anyway, Bluestocking wishes all a Very Happy Valentine’s Day!!!!
This book is the biography of former slave Harriet Jacobs. Harriet was born in North Carolina 1813. She was a mulatto. Female mulattos may not have been set to the fields. But they had a more demeaning life as sex slaves.
For years Harriet was unaware she was a slave. She was blessed in that she was owned by a kind mistress who looked after once her mother died. Once the mistress died she was left the property of her mistress’ niece who was a child at that point. She spent her childhood through young adult life evading her sexually predatory master.
In desperation, she turns to seemingly “sympathetic” senator and bears him two children foolishly believing that her master would sell her once he realized someone else had beaten him to the punch, for lack of better expression. The master tried various means to get Harriet to give herself up to him; he even threatened to sell her children; but to no avail. Her master decides to send she and her children to the plantation. This and this alone pushes Harriet to carry through with her planned escape.
I have to give the woman props for her escape plan. She definitely knew the value of patience. She went into hiding. The master incarcerated her children and brother. At this point, the children’s father purchased the children and her brother under their great-grandmother’s (a free woman) name. Harriet realized that she would have to wait some time before she could leave without being tracked. She hid in the tiny space above her grandmother’s shed for seven years.
To throw off suspicion, she wrote letters and had them posted from New York and Massachusetts knowing that her master would intercept those letters. Meanwhile the children’s father sent Harriet’s daughter Ellen up North supposedly to get education.
After seven years, Harriet escapes to Philly then ends up in New York as a nanny to a British woman. As it turns out, Ellen ends up a maid to her aunt and has yet to begin her education; but as Harriet’s grandmother actually “owns” Ellen, she sends her daughter to a boarding school in Massachusetts. Harriet has several close encounters with her master. Unfortunately even when he dies his family still comes after Harriet. At last, Harriet’s new employer is able to purchase her freedom once and for all.
Ok! Let me explain the rating. The story was well written. It was poignant. I couldn’t put it down. I gave it a D because the subject matter. It was a sad, unpleasant tale. Slavery is a blight upon our country’s history. I’m glad that I read the book. I highly recommend it. But it was not something that I “like.” I hope that makes sense. This is a value read for teenagers.